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[Report] How Has Demand in Sectors Dependent on Specialty Skills Changed Due to Covid-19?

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COVID-19'S IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN ECONOMY 2 Key Findings • Despite the economic upheaval of the pandemic, there remains a shortage of highly skilled workers to meet the persistent demand of employers. • Demand for computer-related workers is stable, and even growing. In fact, computer-related jobs made up 69.6% of all foreign labor requests in FY2020, a slight increase from FY2019 despite the Covid-19 pandemic. • Demand for computer-related occupations is growing and outpacing supply. In 2019, the unemployment rate for computer- and mathematics-related occupations was 2.3%. By 2020 that had only increased by 0.7 percentage points, to 3.0%. By March 2021, their unemployment rate was 1.9%, lower than it was before the pandemic. • Employers' ability to fill these roles will be critical to America's longer-term economic recovery. If businesses cannot find enough workers to fill technical and specialized roles that are often critical to their continued growth and innovation, U.S. companies may be hamstrung in their capacity to expand and operate efficiently. Introduction Beyond the health and societal upheaval left in its wake, the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic have been acutely felt at every level of the U.S. economy and across the labor market. Yet the impact was not evenly spread. Certain sectors of the economy, such as the food, entertainment, and hospitality industries, were hit especially hard, resulting in millions of layoffs. At the same time, other industries saw increased demand for goods and services, which drove up demand for workers, many of them in logistics, transportation, and remote work-capable fields. This created a paradoxical situation for some industries, including many that are more dependent on foreign workers, in which demand remained relatively stable, continuing to exceed supply through the worst of the pandemic. Meanwhile the rest of the country experienced record high unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression. This brief examines data from several sources in order to see how demand for labor—particularly in fields requiring specialty skills–has shifted throughout the pandemic. Using U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) data on the number of Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) filed for H-1B specialty workers, we compare demand for foreign, high-skilled workers between fiscal years 2019 and 2020, and find that it has remained steady, despite the pandemic. Data from Burning Glass Technologies' Labor Insights database, which aggregates and sorts millions of job postings on a real- time basis, provides further insight as to which industries and occupations saw the largest changes in hiring demand. We contrast this with Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and U.S. Census data to show how uneven the increase in unemployment rates have been across the labor market and how the most stable employment sectors are those that include many immigrant workers. What the numbers suggest is that despite the economic upheaval of the pandemic, there remains a shortage of highly skilled workers who can meet the persistent demand of employers. This shortage could have a dampening effect on the country's long-term economic recovery if businesses cannot find enough workers to fill technical and specialized roles that are critical to their continued growth and innovation.

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