The beginning of 2021 will include a new presidential administration and a focus on vaccine availability and the timing of additional federal aid. The second half of the year, we will all be busy rebuilding our battered economy and creating a new normal.

Pandemic Continues to Slow Economic Progress

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine predicts roughly 460,000 deaths by Feb. 1, 2021 — a spike of more than 100 percent from October 2020. Hospitals may not have enough medical staff to treat the influx of COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19’s Impact on Businesses

Surging infections in early 2021 will continue to strain travel. The accommodation industry still has 40-50 percent fewer employees than it had a year ago in some of the nation’s largest markets, such as Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Orlando. LaborIQ estimates the overall leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants and entertainment venues, will not fully recover until 2025.

Many who have been able to work from home will struggle with loneliness and stress. Some of this stress will be due to a lack of childcare options, which has already led to more than 2.2 million women leaving the workforce. Some will worry about their health and the health of loved ones. Employers will spend more time and energy on employee engagement and may have to offer more flexibility to attract and retain talent as employees juggle work with the impact of the pandemic on their personal lives.

As infections decrease, restaurants can increase occupancy levels, and travel and tourism can resume. Businesses reliant on in-person workers can feel confident enough to increase staffing levels, and white-collar workers will feel more comfortable spending disposable income on personal-care services and consumer goods.

Once economic progress becomes more visible, likely in Q2 2021, look for companies to focus on restarting their revenue engines. Roles in sales and marketing will be in high demand.

Many occupations are already short on talent. For example, the legal, technology, architecture, and engineering fields all have unemployment rates of 3.5 percent or less. In many cases, the only way to fill these roles is to entice already employed talent to leave for a new opportunity. However, professionals are often hesitant to make that type of career move during uncertain economic times. As the US begins to return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity, however, talent may become more willing to make a change. Indeed, to achieve the projected 76 million hires for 2021, it is necessary.


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