This chart shows which industries are bouncing back as the pandemic continues

a group of people in a store: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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  • Business Insider looked at the job losses and gains from February to September among industries.
  • Industries with the biggest drops in employment from February to September tended to pay lower wages, while high-wage industries were close to their pre-pandemic employment levels. 
  • This change in employment is similar to changes between February and July and February and August, showing that recovery has been slow for many industries.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released its September employment figures on Friday. Although 661,000 jobs were added last month, many industries are still below their pre-pandemic employment levels.


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The recovery since major drops in the spring has not been equal across sectors. The economic recovery in the US instead seems to look more like a K, where more affluent Americans are recovering faster than others. The Washington Post wrote that white-collar jobs have mainly rebounded from their job losses.

To get a sense of the unequal recovery in the summer, Business Insider looked at the percent change in employment in detailed industries from February 2020 to September 2020, along with pre-pandemic wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2019 estimates. 

The following chart highlights the differences in industries returning to pre-pandemic employment levels. Based on the chart, a few subsectors that typically pay more are already back or close to their pre-pandemic levels, such as securities and other financial investments. Low-paying jobs tend to still be below their pre-pandemic levels. 

Jay Denton, senior vice president of business intelligence and chief innovation officer at ThinkWhy, told Business Insider that although retail overall seems to be one of the industries recovering well, the subsectors show that recovery is unequal. For instance, employment in clothing and clothing accessory stores is around 25% below its pre-pandemic level, while employment in general merchandise stores is around 6% higher than its pre-pandemic levels.

September employment for couriers and messengers is about 10% higher than its pre-pandemic level of 847,800. Unlike other industries, employment in this group continued to increase in March and April. 

Denton said that industries that sell essential items, like food — including food delivery services and grocery stores — are doing well, while other parts of retail seem to be falling behind in their recovery. 

ThinkWhy just released their own report detailing when they expect various industries to recover to pre-pandemic levels as well as which jobs will be looking to recruit this fall. They found there could be demand for workers in retail, construction, delivery services, and the financial sector, to name a few.

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