Jobs and the Future of Work

These are the jobs people want most - and least - after the pandemic

Working from home.

An analysis of its US job postings since the start of the pandemic shows that jobseekers’ interest in sectors such as civil engineering and IT has soared. Image: Unsplash/ Corinne Kutz

Andrea Willige
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  • Online job postings have been growing beyond pre-pandemic levels, with the US uptick at more than 50% compared with pre-pandemic times, says job site Indeed.
  • In the US, interest in civil engineering and IT jobs is soaring, but few people want to fill urgently needed jobs in food preparation or care roles.
  • Interest was strongly related to hourly wages and whether a job could be done remotely.
  • Internationally, roles that lend themselves to homeworking command higher wages than in-person jobs, with lower-income economies offering a smaller share of these.

Has the pandemic changed our priorities when it comes to the kinds of jobs we want to do? According to the job site Indeed, the answer is yes.

An analysis of its US job postings since the start of the pandemic shows that jobseekers’ interest in sectors such as civil engineering and IT has soared. Both fields experienced nearly 60% more job searches by early October 2021 compared with 1 February last year. Over the same period, media and communications, and software-development job searches jumped by more than 48%.

In comparison, childcare, and food preparation and service-job searches dropped by 15% and 18%, respectively, compared with before the pandemic. Personal care and home-health roles lost a third of searches, while loading and stocking jobs fared even worse, recording a 40% drop.

At the same time, postings for loading and stocking jobs have more than doubled compared with February 2021 - the highest increase across all sectors. The warehousing sector is not the only one finding itself in a quandary: many of the less-popular sectors are struggling to fill positions in the wake of the pandemic.

This trend is set against a strong recovery in job postings. Compared with Indeed’s baseline of 1 February 2021, the company reports a significant rise in job vacancies across all of its major markets - in the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada and Australia. Job availability, as evidenced by Indeed job ads, has increased pre-pandemic levels by up to 81% in Australia, and by more than 50% in the US, where postings for all sectors were above the 1 February baseline.

Total job postings on Indeed by country.
Total job postings on Indeed by country. Image: Indeed

Wages and remote working drive jobseekers’ interest

Indeed’s analysis shows that in the US, interest was positively and significantly related to the hourly wages advertised in job postings and whether a job could be done remotely. As the job site’s economist, AnnElizabeth Konkel, points out, jobseekers are more frequently looking for positions that offer higher wages and where remote working is a more likely option.

A contributing factor here may be that occupational sectors such as civil engineering and IT are known to welcome career-switchers, offering reskilling courses for those jobseekers without previous qualifications. The trend for former hospitality and travel industry workers to pivot to IT and similar roles since the pandemic is well-documented.

What do loading and stocking, personal care and home health, and childcare jobs all have in common? They are less well-paid and don’t lend themselves to remote working - and all have been shown to be looking for above-average levels of staff.

Job seeker interest patterns, by sector.
Job seeker interest patterns, by sector. Image: Indeed
Some occupations are booming while others lag.
Some occupations are booming while others lag. Image: Indeed

However, there is a natural limit as to how far some employers - for example in manufacturing, logistics or restaurants - can stretch to accommodate jobseekers’ home-working preferences.

According to an analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), only 37% of jobs in the US can realistically be done from home.

In sectors that are irreversibly in-person, bumping up wages and other incentives is therefore the only lever to attract more applicants, says Indeed’s Konkel. Even this may only be a temporary remedy: the NBER’s study finds the roles that lend themselves to homeworking typically command higher wages than in-person jobs. Those 37% of positions that can be performed remotely account for 46% of all US wages.

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A global issue

There are also much wider implications in these findings. The NBER suggests the positive relationship between income levels and the share of home-based jobs also applies internationally.

But the caveat is that lower-income economies have a lower share of jobs that can be done from home. For example, less than a quarter of jobs in Mexico and Turkey could be performed from home, compared to more than 40% in Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The findings also tie in with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) concern that projected employment growth will not be sufficient to close the gaps opened up by the pandemic, with low-income countries likely to face the worst of the impact.

Share of jobs that can be done at home.
Share of jobs that can be done at home. Image: NBER

All the research points to the fact employment will remain a global issue as the recovery advances. The World Economic Forum’s Partnership for New Work Standards is a cross-industry initiative that aims to address this challenge by building a healthy, resilient and equitable future of work. The goal is to drive more human-centric work standards across in-person, hybrid and virtual work, on a global scale.

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