Jobs That Could Grow During the Pandemic and Recession

Workers pack and ship customer orders at the Amazon fulfillment center

Scott Olson/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

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Workers pack and ship customer orders at the Amazon fulfillment center
Scott Olson/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Uncharted Employment Territory

No one really knows the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic will affect the nation's economy or when the recession that it triggered will end. Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. treasury secretary, says it could be over by year's end. Others, such as the economists at the UCLA Anderson Forecast, say it could drag on until 2023. What is certain, health officials say, is that the virus remains a threat — and will continue to affect the labor market for the foreseeable future. Statistics kept by the federal government and by employers suggest some kinds of jobs may be more recession-proof than others. Also promising: Some companies are aggressively hiring to cope with a surge in demand as consumers' buying habits have changed during the pandemic

Related: 15 Industries That Would Benefit From a Recession

empty airplane interior

Some Jobs Aren't Coming Back...

When America put the brakes on the economy this spring, the lockdown affected some industries more than others. The arts, hospitality, recreation, and entertainment sectors suffered the most, says Daniel Bachman, a senior manager with Deloitte Services. Half of these workers suddenly found themselves jobless — and they won't be going back anytime soon, if ever. "Bringing all those people back to work is likely to prove very challenging. As long as the disease remains a significant issue, demand in the most affected industries will continue to lag," Bachman says in a Deloitte white paper. "That means that many people who were employed in those industries will need to seek jobs [elsewhere]."

Related: 15 Things You Really Don't Need to Buy During a Recession

Quality Assurance Manager

… But Opportunities Exist

Despite the tumult, economic activity hasn't ground to a complete halt, Bachman says. Online commerce has surged, and companies like Amazon and Walmart are scrambling to meet demand and expand capacity. "Efforts to reshore parts of the supply chain, and to build more robust manufacturing systems, will likely mean that jobs will become available in manufacturing and related industries." Data from LinkedIn and staffing agency Adecco support this; delivery drivers, warehouse and construction workers have been among the most in-demand positions since the recession began.

Related: 50 Ways to Prepare for a Recession

Delivery Driver
Ian Winslow/istockphoto

Delivery Driver

Median salary: $32,020 per year
You may not need a college degree or a high school diploma for this role, but you do need to be physically fit. Delivery drivers have to load and unload cargo, some of it quite heavy, as well as be able to sit for long periods of time. A valid license and an unblemished driving record are a must.

Construction Companies

Construction Worker

Median salary: $36,000
Another occupation that calls for strength and fitness, both commercial and residential projects require lots of manual labor. Big-box retailers and the warehouses that serve them are driving this demand. "These facilities have seen a boom in sales, and are now spending that money on facility maintenance and roofing services," says Jeff Neal, project manager for Capital Coating, a commercial roofer in Pennsylvania. "We are swamped right now and have a challenging time finding labor to help."

medical researcher

Tech and Medicine Are Still Promising

Some kinds of jobs were thriving before the pandemic and will continue to be in demand during the recession, says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist with Glassdoor. "Technology, healthcare, and e-commerce workers will be largely insulated and may experience a boom thanks to growing demand for remote work software (like video meetings and instant messaging apps), health services, and online shopping," he said in an April analysis. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projecting job growth through 2028, bear this out. Occupations expected to have the most new openings include low-skill, low-wage roles such as personal care aides, as well as well-paying, specialized professions like software developers.

Related: 22 Things to Do Now to Land a Job in a Recession

data and statistics

Information Security Analyst

Median salary: $99,730
Keeping a company's data networks safe from hackers, malware, and competitors has been essential since the earliest days of the internet. If anything, data security has become even more important as e-commerce continues to boom. A bachelor's degree in a computer-related discipline is required for these jobs.

Web Developer
Personal Care Aide
Daniel Balakov/istockphoto

Personal Care Aide

Median salary: $24,060
According to the BLS, no occupation is expected to be more in demand than that of a personal care aide. Although formal training isn't required, professional staffing agencies will require a high school diploma or equivalent. "As the baby-boom population ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for the services of home health aides and personal care aides will continue to increase," the BLS notes.

Physical Therapy
SDI Productions/istockphoto

Physical Therapy Assistant

Median salary: $48,990
These healthcare workers help patients regain strength and mobility as well as manage pain as they recover from accidents, illnesses, and surgeries. This can be a physically demanding position as PT assistants are often on their feet for long periods of time. "Physical therapist assistants entering the occupation typically need an associate's degree from an accredited program and a license or certification," according to BLS research.


Registered Nurse

Median salary: $73,330
Skilled medical occupations remain in demand, in part due to an aging population. Registered nurses can be found in hospitals and clinics, nursing homes, doctor's offices, and even some private companies. Unlike some fast-growing and in-demand occupations, nursing requires extensive education and licensing. As the BLS notes, "Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a bachelor's degree in nursing, an associate's degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program."


Some Kinds of Retail Will Thrive

Sales of clothing, furniture, and large appliances and electronics all took a severe hit in the early weeks of the pandemic, falling by two-thirds or more, according to Deloitte's Bachman. Spending has rebounded, but whether that continues is anyone's guess if the pandemic forces bricks-and-mortar businesses to close again. Online and "essential" retail is another matter; it has thrived. This is reflected in where demand has been since the pandemic began. Instacart made a splash in late March when it said it planned to hire 300,000 people over the following three months, and major grocers, drugstores, and big-box retailers including Kroger, Walgreens, and Walmart have made similar announcements. The outlook for these kinds of jobs remains upbeat for now.

Related: Short-Term Jobs You Can Still Get During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Woman cashier in mask and gloves

Grocery Store / Retail Worker

Median salary: $25,440
Big-box retailers and grocers, deemed essential services during the pandemic, have benefitted the most in the short term, even as other forms of retail have ground to a halt. No formal education is required for these roles, but good social, organizational, and financial skills are all a plus. The longer-term outlook remains murky. The BLS projects that retail jobs — primarily at physical outlets as opposed to online — will decline by 2% through 2028.

Fast Food
Ziga Plahutar / istockphoto
Warehouse worker taking inventory
FG Trade/istockphoto

Logistics and Warehousing is Also Hot

Retail, especially online retail, can't function without an army of support staff who do the work of getting your order from Point A to Point B. Between March 2 and May 11, the jobs with the most growth included grocery and warehouse managers, warehouse workers, forklift operators, order selectors and IT specialists, according to Glassdoor data. The BLS also expects these kinds of jobs to be in demand during the decade. But they don't always pay well. The median pay for a truck driver was about $43,000 in 2019; manual freight jobs pay even less, according to BLS data. Management positions, however, can pay $100,000 or more.

Related: How Much Household Spending Has Dropped During the Pandemic

Warehouse forklift

Forklift Operator

Median salary: $35,000
Although robotics are playing a larger role in warehouse operations than they were a decade ago, there is still plenty of demand for humans. "Most material moving machine operators work full time, and overtime for them is common. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some operators — especially those in warehousing — work overnight shifts," according to the BLS. Training for jobs like forklift operator and others that require operating heavy machinery varies by occupation; some positions require special licensing.

loading a truck

Freight or Warehouse Manual Laborer

Median salary: $28,710 per year
There will be plenty of calls for manual labor, too, thanks to the e-commerce boom. Training is typically handled on the job. "There are usually no formal educational requirements for anyone to become a hand laborer or material mover. Employers typically require only that applicants be physically able to perform the work," according to the BLS.

Go Solar

Alternative Energy and Marketing are Growing

In addition to projecting where the most jobs will be this decade, the BLS also issues an outlook on the fastest-growing occupations. These tend to pay far better, but they also require special training, and there's more competition because they are fewer in number. The fastest-growing of these, according to BLS data, is solar panel installer, which paid on average about $42,000 in 2019. The No. 2 occupation, wind turbine service technician, paid about $12,000 more. As e-commerce grows, so will the need for people to analyze all that data, making marketing specialists and statisticians two other fast-growing fields that pay well.

installing solar panels

Solar Panel Installer

Median salary: $44,890
This is the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., according to BLS data, although the number of openings is relatively low. A high school diploma and an associate's degree are recommended, though many positions in the trade also offer on-the-job training. The BLS notes that this can be a physically demanding job: "Most solar panel installations are done outdoors, but PV installers sometimes work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electrical grid. Installers also must travel to jobsites."

Financial Analyst
Jirapong Manustrong/istockphoto

Market Research Analysts

Median salary: $63,790
Unlike some occupations, nearly every industry (alternative energy included) requires skilled analysts to interpret market data and make projections to guide business decisions. "Most market research analysts need at least a bachelor's degree. Some research positions may require a master's degree. Strong math and analytical skills are essential," the BLS says.

help wanted sign

Long-Term Employment Trends Unclear

Given how disruptive 2020 has been so far, any long-term projection should be viewed with some skepticism, experts say. Job-seekers can target these in-demand occupations and industries, but employment opportunities won't be the same everywhere. "The U.S. labor market is very large, and the ideal role during a recession may not be in your local city or even your home state," Glassdoor's Andrew Chamberlain says. 

Related: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Financial Realities of the COVID-19 Crisis