Which Industries Will Sink and Which Will Swim in the Post-Covid World?
Here is a peek at the post-pandemic outlook.
By Julie Norwell
The employment numbers for May are still ugly, but by this point they shouldn’t shock anyone. Economists have been telegraphing for the past two months that the economic worst of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic is yet to come. If Goldman Sachs is to be believed, the economic worst has arrived – with GDP shrinking to unprecedented lows and unemployment stretching to unprecedented highs.
But there is a silver lining to bottoming out. Now begins the upswing.
To be sure, the labor market has borne the biggest brunt of the economic downturn. In just eleven weeks the unemployment rate has rocketed from one of the lowest it’s ever been to one of the highest it’s ever been.
We can all take heart in the indicators suggesting that the second half of the year will be better, and that investors expect unemployment to improve relatively quickly. But, let’s not kid ourselves – business in the post-Covid world is likely to be dramatically different, and some of the hardest hit industries – amusement parks, movie theaters, hotels, clothing stores, and airlines – may not recover for some time, if ever.
Other industries will rebound, however, as will companies that are bold and agile enough to adapt to a new business-as-usual. The employment market, too, will likely transform, with job opportunities growing and declining in unexpected places and ways. Jobseekers who know where to look will have an edge.
Here is a peek at the post-pandemic outlook.
Industries Likely to Swim
The breathtaking speed with which the pandemic swept the globe caught everyone off guard and every sector has been affected. Industries such as Video Conferencing & Software Developers, which enjoyed an overnight surge (growth is up 19.1% in 2020 so far), have even faced unique challenges (think Zoom). Still, the pandemic and the uncertainties about when it will end creates better conditions for some businesses than others.
Top performing industries to date according to industry research platform, Vertical IQ, include liquor stores, fruit and vegetable manufacturers, grocery stores, home centers and hardware stores, internet, TV, and mail order retailers, janitorial services, paper products manufacturers, and pet food manufacturers.
Focus on remote working
Going forward, industries and businesses that support the exigencies of social distancing and the practice of spending more time at home – be it for work, schooling, or entertainment – will make out well, especially in the short term.
According to industry market researcher, IBISWorld, which offers specific analysis of the coronavirus impact on individual industries, technology will be a sure winner, especially software and systems that facilitate remote business continuity, unified communications-as-a-service platforms, and cloud computing capabilities.
Other industries with a rosy outlook will include online furniture sales (for remote workers setting up home offices), and Employee Assistance Program Services (for the anticipated uptick in mental health issues associated with remote working and quarantining).
Because many educational institutions will continue remote learning into the fall, online tutoring services and educational consultants (to help train teachers and administrators in online teaching) are expected to see greater demand.
Retail stores have shuttered, but online shopping has surged – a trend that is expected to grow. Online grocery shopping, in particular, is booming. Compared to pre-Covid days when just 11% of consumers bought groceries online, in the four weeks ending April 7 more than half of shoppers reported placing an online grocery order – 33% of them first-timers to online grocery shopping!
Besides groceries and tangible goods, people are also consuming all kinds of media online, especially video streaming services and video games.
Business advisory services
Not surprisingly, many businesses will be seeking advisory assistance on whether to maintain operations and how best to do so. Management consulting, accounting services, and other advisory service businesses, therefore, will likely see a boost in demand.
Demand for Janitorial Services and other industries involved with the prevention of infection will boom as state and local economies open and try to stem fears by a wary public.
Industries related to medical instrument and supply manufacturing, medical services, software, medical supplies, and, especially, labor in the healthcare field will see a rise in demand. In addition, many medical providers can expect to see a surge of caseloads by patients who opted to put off discretionary procedures until after the pandemic peaked.
The pandemic has also supercharged the prospects for telehealth. McKinsey recently reported that “Covid-19 has caused a massive acceleration in the use of telehealth. Consumer adoption has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.”
Industries Likely to Sink
In the post-Covid world there are many industries that jobseekers should think twice about targeting. In fact, when it comes to sinking and swimming, Forbes contributor Stephen McBride minces no words: “For many industries, this crisis will prove to be the final nail in the coffin. [Three] industries will NEVER return to what they once were,” he writes.
These industries are:
- Movie Theaters – Why risk infection when you can stream movies at home?
- Department Stores – Many first-time online shoppers will eschew shopping in physical stores now that they know how convenient online shopping is.
- Office Space Operators – The growing awareness that widespread remote working will be part of the “new normal” means many businesses won’t renew their office leases.
Leisure & Hospitality
Many industries will take years to regain their former strength, especially if human contact is important to the business. Leisure & Hospitality, for example, was hit harder than any other industry, with unemployment reaching nearly 40% (see graph). And because travel has dried up, demand for hotel rooms and restaurant seats may not rebound for a long time. Individual hotels and major operators are projecting occupancies below 20%, a reality that may force many to close. According to IBISWorld, sector revenue is forecast to decline 11.2% in 2020.
Within this industry are subgroups, such as performing arts, spectator sports, museums, amusement parks and national and state parks. Some will fare better than others, but all will face challenges going forward.
This sector is victim to substantially reduced industrial and consumer spending. According to IBISWorld, revenue for this sector is forecast to decline 18.4% in 2020. The segment of the industry related to medical supplies, however, will be an outlier in the overall decline.
This sector is volatile in the best of circumstances, and pre-Covid it was already facing stagnant productivity, low levels of digitization, and low profitability according to global management consulting company McKinsey. It was ripe for disruption, and the pandemic will force it to innovate if it is to fully recover. The sector revenue is forecast to decline 6.8% in 2020.
On the upside, low mortgage rates and pent up demand will kick in once the larger economy recovers. Moreover, public investment and infrastructure projects are sorely needed in the U.S. Initiative on these is unlikely before the presidential election, but if the government moves forward on projects in 2021, it could offer a lot of employment opportunity.
Automakers have started to reopen plants, but continuing supply chain and health safety concerns, not to mention waning consumer demand, will continue to hamper the recovery of this industry.
The air travel industry will be even more vulnerable. Revenue is expected to decline 6.3% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 fallout. U.S. airlines carried 51% fewer scheduled service passengers in March 2020 than a year earlier – the largest year-to-year decrease on record and the lowest level of air travel in almost two decades. Demand is unlikely to recover without a concurrent rise in consumer sentiment and improved economic conditions.
Accelerating Trends and Paradigm Shifts
It’s important to keep in mind that the pandemic isn’t fully responsible for the trajectory of a given industry. New trends in the global order of business have been underway for years thanks to advances in digital technology. Analysts say the pandemic is simply accelerating these trends.
The result may well be a paradigm shift.
“Covid-19 will force a rebirth of many industries…, re-assessing and re-imagining modes of consumption, supply, interaction and productivity,” writes Mohit Joshi, president of global technology firm, Infosys Limited, in his article, Who will be the winners in a post-pandemic economy?
As counterintuitive as it may seem, now is a great time for talented workers to consider a career change. No matter the industry, companies will survive based on the choices they make now, and choosing good talent is paramount.
McKinsey notes in a recent report that “forward-looking companies know that…the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgement, and creativity that people bring to work…This means getting the right people in the right roles to create value.”
This is good news for jobseekers, but they shouldn’t forget that, like companies, those with a healthy combination of resilience, agility and a willingness to adapt to the new normal will be the most successful.