One chart shows how employment has changed throughout the US economy almost 3 years after the start of the pandemic

  • The US labor market has been above its pre-pandemic February 2020 employment level for a while.
  • But some industries ended 2022 still below their February 2020 level of jobs.
  • For instance, child day care services was roughly 8% below pre-pandemic employment.

Last year was a great year for American workers as the country recovered all the jobs lost in the sharp downturn after the start of the Covid pandemic.

However, that recovery has been uneven. Some sectors are still below pre-pandemic employment almost three years since the official start of the pandemic. Accommodation, clothing and clothing accessories stores, and child day care services are just three of these sectors.

It may be harder for some industries to recover amid ongoing Covid struggles, the Great Resignation, and what Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell called a “structural labor shortage.”

Insider analyzed the change in US employment for different industries that the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks and plotted it against their typical pay in a chart.

The chart’s vertical axis shows that percent change in employment from February 2020 to December 2022. The horizontal axis shows the median hourly wage for these groups using May 2021 estimates from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program.

You can hover over the various industries found on the chart to see their percent change and typical pay. Orange data points mean the group had a percent change below zero and thus still has not recovered all the jobs lost at the start of the pandemic as of December.

While there isn’t an especially strong relationship between pay and employment change, industries that are still more than 10% below their pre-pandemic employment level tended to be lower-paying.

For instance, employment in accommodation, like hotels, is 16.3% below its February 2020 level. The overall leisure and hospitality sector, which includes accomodation, is 5.5% below its February 2020 level. Food services and drinking places, another group under leisure and hospitality, doesn’t have as many jobs to still recover; its employment is 3.6% below as of December. Accommodation and food services and drinking places are relatively low paying, with median 2021 wages of $14.24 and $13.60 respectively.

While leisure and hospitality isn’t back at its pre-pandemic employment level, it still has been experiencing large monthly job gains as workers are needed to meet demand.

“We see there’s an almost sort of insatiable demand for restaurants, meals, and travel at the moment despite the huge cost of air travel right now,” Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, told Insider.

Pollak added that recovery thus “will likely continue in the coming year.”

Nursing and residential care facilities as well as child day care services are two other relatively low-paying industries still below February 2020 levels. The New York Times’ Dana Goldstein wrote in an October post the shortage in child care could be due to a few things, including competition for workers from other jobs. The labor shortage in the industry can affect those who need childcare. Many Americans already lived in places where childcare providers were scarce according to a 2018 analysis.

While the industry is relatively low-paying with a median wage among all workers of $13.97 an hour, childcare workers specifically in this industry had an even smaller median pay of $11.43.

Nursing homes are also feeling the pain of the ongoing labor shortage as they struggle with their staffing based on a survey from the American Health Care Association. That survey of 524 nursing home providers found that 45% said they have “moderate level of staffing shortages.” Additionally, 39% reported a high level of this issue.

Nursing and residential care facilities had a median hourly pay of $15.94. Nursing care facilities and community care facilities for the elderly fall into this sector, both of which are still below pre-pandemic employment.

Various kind of transportation sectors are also short of where they were at a few years ago. That includes rail transportation, which is 7.0% below February 2020 employment. Rail transportation was already seeing employment tumble in the years prior to the pandemic.

While railroads are struggling, airlines are thriving. Air transportation was 11.7% above its February 2020 employment level in December. Bleisure and being able to work remotely has added to airline demand.

Plenty of other sectors are above February 2020 employment. Warehousing and storage has stood out for its employment compared to where it was in February 2020. It continued to expand throughout the pandemic and was 30.8% above its pre-pandemic employment as of December. As Insider’s Aki Ito wrote, this growth at warehouses is in part due to consumers, writing that “Thanks to the pandemic-driven boom in online shopping, the country’s fulfillment and distribution centers continued to staff up at a furious pace.”

However, this boom could be over. The industry has been seeing month after month declines in its employment during the second half of 2022.

Scientific research and development services is one industry that is also well above February 2020 employment. It’s one industry with a high median pay that has seen jobs soar after a decline in April 2020. The median hourly pay for all occupations in this industry was $48.47 and is 17.5% above its pre-pandemic level as of December.