The US job market has taken a hammering since the March shutdown, forcing the joblessness rate up from its historic lows at the start of the year. Despite the recent dire job reports coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, there are reasons for hope.
Economists point out that there are no a priori reasons to assume that the recovery will be anything other than V-shaped. The contraction in output is deep, but, as the May 2020 jobs figures show, the labor market appears to already be on the road to recovery.
Practically all analysts also agree that the US could see the most dramatic quarterly increase in output in its history later this year. Goldman Sachs has gone on record anticipating a 19 percent surge in production in Q3 to counteract the contraction at the start of the year, making this the fastest ever.
In addition to these macro trends, there are further reasons for workers to be positive. While the coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of businesses to lay-off workers, it is also fostering economic adaptation. The federal government now requires workers who can facilitate its response to the crisis and carry out its policies. There is also a need for legions of workers to process unemployment claims.
Government Hiring Trends
Given the uncertainty unleashed by the coronavirus, it is challenging to make any accurate predictions for how employment will change at the federal level over the coming months.
The BLS released the latest government employment statistics on June 5, 2020. The document paints a mixed picture of what’s going on in the sector. Overall employment fell by more than 585,000 in May, but local governments accounted for 487,000 of the loss. Furthermore, jobs at the federal level, excluding the U.S. Postal Service, declined by only 15,000, suggesting a relatively minimal impact on the sector.
Analysis suggests that the anticipated decline in federal employment has been tempered by the fact that the government needs people to respond to the pandemic. Interestingly, the USPS reported a 1,000-strong increase in its workforce, underscoring the importance of delivery services under social distancing.
So what job trends are we likely to see emerging in the coming months?
The Federal Government Needs Stimulus Package Administrators
The federal government is now in the process of delivering the raft of stimulus packages announced by President Trump and Congress from March 6, 2020, onwards. The first of these, The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, includes more than $1 billion in loan subsidies for small businesses impacted by the crisis. The second, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, offers more than $104 billion in funding for free COVID-19 testing, and emergency paid family and medical leave. The $2 trillion The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) offers direct payments to individuals and families who completed a tax return. And the final stimulus, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act package, announced on April 24, 2020, offers more assistance to small businesses and hospitals affected by the pandemic.
Administering these programs is going to require teams of people familiar with tax law, the stimulus acts themselves, and qualifying criteria. There will also likely be a need for customer service reps who can provide help to individuals and businesses in need of immediate financial assistance.
While it is difficult to predict the outcome of current attempts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we will likely see increasing employment at the Department of Health and Human Services in the coming months. The HHS touches the lives of more Americans than virtually any other and is at the forefront of the effort to organize a comprehensive response to the threat posed by COVID-19.
Currently, the department employs budget analysts, business and industry specialists, food service workers, medical care workers, and toxicologists. It will likely continue to expand these roles over the coming months as it looks for strategies to prevent a repeat of the damage caused by the present crisis.
Top of the list of priorities for the agency is setting out practical guidance that businesses can use as they re-open their stores and entice customers to return. It will require teams of health experts to carry this out.
The Military Continues To Hire New Recruits
President Trump signed an executive order in January 2017 that set out a policy that would increase funding for the US military. Hiring, therefore, is likely to continue apace. The service currently has a 10,000 recruit goal across a wide range of fields, including front-line operations and support services. The military needs psychological operations specialists, disposal specialists, linguists, unmanned systems operators, and technologists.
The USDA Requires Educated Workers For Specialist Service
During the height of the pandemic, the USDA announced that it would be posting dozens of jobs to fill positions at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and its Economic Research Service. The hiring is unrelated to the present pandemic and part of the agency’s drive to move more of its workers out of its Washington headquarters. The roles are for both biological and social science specialists.
Overall, therefore, the federal job outlook is looking positive. Declines have been much smaller than in other sectors, reflecting the robustness of the employment opportunities on offer. And federal workers continue to receive regular paychecks with no decline in pay, even as private enterprise lays off millions of workers across the economy. As the economy recovers, the federal government will begin hiring again to fill positions vacated by the response to the pandemic.
Summarising the key findings:
- Declines in federal job positions were much smaller than in the rest of the economy, including the government sector as a whole.
- Federal agencies require experienced workers and graduates who can assist with the COVID-19 response
- The HHS is hiring as part of its effort to improve health in the context of COVID-19
- The military continues to take on recruits as part of the broader push to strengthen the US’s defense capability