8 Industries That Were Drastically Impacted by COVID-19


The novel coronavirus devastated the economy through forced shutdowns and a massive shift in priorities. Understandably, some industries have been hit much harder during this period, with revenue streams either cut down significantly or ground to a halt.

Concurrently, the United States is seeing the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, which is now at 14.7%. Over 20.5 million jobs were lost in April alone.

We’re in dire straights, that much is obvious. The looming question is which industries have been impacted the most, and how can they start to recover after the pandemic dies down? How do we come back from this?

The Most Impacted Industries Due to COVID-19

The world has been changed irrevocably by the widespread pandemic, both in spirit and in function. People are warier of going out and will be for some time. Businesses, on the other hand, have had to redevelop their services and environments to make them safer.

Some industries, such as construction and development, have not seen the same kind of impact as others. As of 2019, for instance, about 13,000 jobs were being added to the industry per month. Of course, that has slowed amid the pandemic, but the biggest impact on construction has been due to project and environmental requirements. Preparing a worksite for social distancing and safe work habits can be challenging.

With the help of a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report concerning unemployment, we can gather which industries are being hit the hardest financially by the pandemic. Industries with the highest percentage changes are experiencing unprecedented loss.

8. Airlines

Few people are traveling and even fewer are flying. Reports show that aviation-supported jobs fell from 46 million at the peak of business to 41.7 million, while direct aviation jobs fell by 4.8 million. That includes both transportation and supply chain operations. Cargo flights are much less frequent, as are consumer-level flights.

One can only hope that the vaccines mitigate the spread of the illness further, allowing life to return to normal. If not, we may be looking at the downfall of the transportation and travel sectors.

7. Hospitality

Similar to airlines, the hospitality industry has taken a plummet. Jobs in the sector dropped by 33.4% between January 2020 and January 2021. As expected, general travel has decreased, while most people who are out and about are only doing so for work or business.

The good news is that hotel properties are being used in other ways. New York City, for example, is repurposing hotels for COVID-19 testing, and also blocking off certain properties for isolation, complete with food, clean linens, and care.

6. Motion Picture

While some movie and television projects have continued off and on, the motion picture industry saw sweeping shutdowns during the peak of the pandemic. The result is that both motion picture and sound recording jobs saw a loss during the pandemic.

Some productions have restarted, albeit safely, which is great news for entertainment fans. Unfortunately, the extended lull has contributed to many hardships within the industry.

5. Dental

Because dental services were deemed non-essential in many states, jobs and revenue fell by the wayside. Many states are now allowing dental firms and offices to reopen, provided they follow safe social distancing protocols. Some offices are requiring reservations, while others are keeping clients out of the office until it’s time for their appointment. Waiting rooms are closed indefinitely.

Of course, this is alongside regular protocols like mask rules, social distancing, and frequent sanitation.

4. Personal Services

Because many people are staying at home, a bevy of personal services is experiencing huge revenue and job losses. Everything from laundry services to parking, dating, and pet care is spiraling down.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal services industry saw jobs fall 16.58% between January 2020 and January 2021. Even with things opening back up, it looks like the downward trend is going to remain, at least for a little while longer.

3. Food Services

The food industry is a mixed bag. While most ventures saw significant revenue and job losses, others flourished thanks to the new remote opportunities, particularly by offering curbside and low-contact services.

The food services and drinking industry — which includes restaurants and bars — saw jobs fall 18.832% between January 2020 to January 2021. Businesses fortunate enough to pivot to remote services have been able to mitigate some of those losses.

Dine-in services are now being allowed in some states, but business is still slow and capacities are severely limited. It will likely remain that way for some time.

2. Retail

This year has hit retail extremely hard, with quite a few bankruptcies from big names like Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, and more. 

Between January 2020 and January 2021, jobs decreased by 2.42%, but that includes the entire sector. Clothing and clothing accessory stores experienced a drop of 21.96%. Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores lost 17.77% of jobs.

Most retail businesses — clothing stores, for example — were deemed nonessential and had to shut down. Workers were either laid off or out of work for a time as the businesses were closed. Even now, as more places are starting to open, brick-and-mortar stores aren’t drawing the same crowds they used to. People tend to be buying more goods online and are having them shipped to their doorsteps.

Grocery stores haven’t had this problem, however. Many have experienced higher volumes of customers and orders even amid supply chain issues.

1. Recreation

Since people have been shuttered in, recreational-focused businesses have been the most damaged overall. In amusements, gambling, and recreation, jobs fell by 31.25% from January 2020 to January 2021. Museums, historical sites, and similar operations saw a decrease of 24.98%. Performing arts and spectator sports fell by 38.11%.

It makes sense because even before the shutdowns many people were avoiding crowded locations and activities. More recently, a lot of these businesses have opened back up, Disney is an excellent example, but with the appropriate safety protocols, including temperature monitoring and social distancing. Masks are often required, too! Open or not, capacities are limited, and people are hesitant to go out.

Where Do We Go from Here?

As the vaccinations and inoculation prove effective, we’ll see more safe conditions for everyone. This is happening alongside the reopening of most businesses and locations, which is pleasing to see.

As people have been cooped up for months now, some even a year or more, it’s not a stretch to estimate that a wave of support is soon to come for most businesses. When that’s going to happen there’s no telling, however.

Hopefully, many of the industries that have been severely impacted by the pandemic can hold out until that support arrives.

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.

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