Coronavirus Commercial And Residential Cleaning Services See A 75% Spike In Demand
Rush to disinfect workplaces and public spaces ramp up. Coronavirus Commercial And Residential Cleaning Services See A 75% Spike In Demand
To Keep Covid-19 At Bay, Americans Turn To Cleaning Services
The coronavirus has changed what it means to clean.
In the year 2019 B.C. (Before Coronavirus), homeowners or their housekeepers could basically scrub, wipe, dust and vacuum their way to a clean house.
“Our requests for disinfection services have more than doubled since the pandemic occurred,” says Pete Duncanson, director of commercial operations for ServiceMaster Restore, the brand best known for cleaning up homes and businesses after disasters, like flooding and fires.
The Heavy Artillery
The Memphis-based company, which also includes Merry Maids cleaning service, has about 3,000 franchises across the U.S. that can dispatch technicians to both clean and disinfect homes. Before disinfecting, ServiceMaster techs focus on the basics of cleaning to remove everyday dirt and dust. “The biggest mistake people make is that they think they can spray a magic bullet. But if they don’t clean the soil, disinfecting won’t work,” Mr. Duncanson says.
After cleaning, the technician typically uses a high-volume sprayer to disperse a mist of disinfectant throughout the home that is left to air dry. In some cases, the technician will use an electrostatic sprayer, which delivers an electric charge to the disinfectant to help the minuscule droplets adhere to surfaces.
Servpro Industries, another disaster-remediation company, has also seen an uptick in calls from homeowners seeking disinfection services, says John Sooker, chief operating officer of the Gallatin, Tenn., company, which has about 1,750 franchises in the U.S.
Mr. Sooker says that people are calling because they came across somebody at work who was infected, and then they quarantine in one area of their home and have the house disinfected.
Servpro technicians don’t clean the house before disinfecting—homeowners should take care of that before the scheduled visit. Upon arrival, technicians use a fogger or sprayer to disperse disinfectant throughout the home. The chemical is allowed to remain on surfaces for the product’s recommended time before it is wiped off. Technicians also deploy air scrubbers, which have filters that remove particulate matter from the air.
With more people staying at home, certain spaces and personal items are getting heavier use, Mr. Sooker notes. He advises homeowners to disinfect overlooked areas like the workshop, sewing room and garage, as well as items like gym equipment and electronics.
The cleaning company BioPure, with eight locations in the U.S., encourages clients to sign up for regular applications of disinfectant, just as a homeowner would for pest control. In weekly, biweekly or monthly visits, BioPure technicians use electrostatic sprayers to disperse its disinfectant. The chemical dries quickly after application, eliminating the need for a wipe-down after spraying. “We put a molecular coating all over your home, like powder coating,” says founder Brandon Kinder.
Prices for these services vary widely, based on the location of the home, its size and the level of cleaning services requested. Baseline pricing by ServiceMaster ranges from about 35 cents a square foot up to $1.50 a square foot.
In a home that has had a confirmed Covid-19 case, costs can be higher for an intensive cleaning and disinfecting.
Servpro averages about 40 to 50 cents a square foot in New York for a preventive treatment, up to $1.25 a square foot for a specialized treatment in a home with a confirmed Covid-19 case. With BioPure, many homes can be disinfected for $100 or less. Homeowners in larger homes typically pay 2 to 5 cents a square foot for the services.
Can These Services Actually Rid Your Home Of The Virus?
Because Covid-19 is so new, there hasn’t been any academic research on the effectiveness of disinfectant sprayers and foggers in killing the coronavirus, says Lee-Ann Jaykus, a North Carolina State University professor who specializes in food microbiology and virology.
Prof. Jaykus was the co-author of a 2017 study that looked at the efficacy of a disinfectant fogger in killing two viruses that are common, but unrelated to the virus that causes Covid-19. The research, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, found that fogging with disinfectants containing chlorine dioxide and hydrogen peroxide—chemicals commonly used in commercial applications—was able to inactivate viruses studied and get to hard-to-reach places.
That said, Prof. Jaykus was reluctant to recommend their use in a residential setting.
“One of the problems is that the chemicals you use when you fog are not benign,” she says. “In both cases, you have to leave the premises for a particular period of time—about an hour or a little longer.” Some of the chemicals can also be corrosive, and frequent use could damage stainless steel or bleach fabrics. Overall, the use of sprayers and these chemicals in homes requires further study, she concludes.
Some homeowners prefer to take the DIY approach to disinfecting. But a recent survey found that many are doing it improperly. In mid-March, 1,005 U.S. adults were asked about disinfectant use in a survey commissioned by the American Cleaning Institute, a Washington-based trade group that represents makers of cleaning products. Only 58% cleaned correctly, by either keeping the surface wet with disinfectant wipes for as long as recommended on the label or spraying disinfectant and letting it air dry, the institute says.
A member of Clorox’s Clinical & Scientific Affairs team explains the differences in cleaning terms.
Clean: Removing dirt, oil or other grime from an object. It’s the first step before sanitizing or disinfecting.
Sanitize: Using products with labels indicating the ability to kill bacteria on hard surfaces.
Disinfect Using products approved by the EPA to kill both bacteria and viruses, such as the coronavirus, on hard surfaces.
Turning To The Pros
Here are some of the things companies offer that go beyond routine cleaning.
Industrial-strength cleaning agents: Chemicals are typically stronger, with higher concentrations than what’s typically found at home.
Specialized equipment: Disinfectants are dispersed via foggers, high-volume sprayers or electrostatic sprayers.
Broader scope: In addition to high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, light switches and flush handles), the professionals can disinfect things like laundry hampers, electronics and gym equipment. Some technicians can also steam clean carpeting and upholstered surfaces, clean out air conditioning/heating ducts and dispose of medical waste.
Coronavirus Cleaning Services Target Malls
Maintenance firms keep facilities disinfected even after almost everyone else has cleared out.
“They spray it, let it sit for 10 minutes and then wipe it clean,” said Benito Chavez, director of operations for the century-old market lined with food and grocery stalls and restaurants.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the eateries are all takeout only. But virus experts warn it is possible for people to pick up or leave the pathogen by touching a counter, payment machine or any other surface.
Commercial cleaners hired to sanitize the malls, banks and restaurants that have remained open during the pandemic admit their efforts aren’t a cure-all. Surfaces can get immediately reinfected, which is why they have to keep going back over and over them—as often as every hour at Grand Central Market.
“It’s effective until the next person goes by and sneezes or talks,” said Kathy R. Gromer, a pulmonologist and partner in the Minnesota Lung Center, a private practice in Minneapolis.
The companies performing such work are mostly ones with existing contracts that had specialized in general upkeep but have shifted their focus to concentrate more on disinfecting from the virus.
In one now-closed seating area at the front of the market, a woman sprayed and wiped down dozens of chair legs, seats and backs and tables. In other areas, cleaners took mops to the market’s floors and wiped down handrails and doorknobs.
Janitorial service ESCFederal is applying disinfectant as many as five times daily, compared with only once before the pandemic, in financial institutions, takeout restaurants and other businesses that remain open, said Todd Videon, chief executive officer of the West Chester, Pa.-based firm.
Todd Hopkins, CEO of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services, a firm based in Palm Harbor, Fla., said his company’s customers have requested extra cleaning since the pandemic began, with a bank chain in Tampa asking for its branches to be sterilized using disinfectant spray guns. Cleaners say guns can be more thorough than spraying and wiping because they disperse the chemical more uniformly over an area and reach nooks and corners.
Chemical companies are busy. At Spartan Chemical Co., a manufacturer in Maumee, Ohio, sales of its disinfectants and sanitizers used in the cleaning “have surged,” said president John Swigart. Demand is so high that Spartan has had to limit how much each customer can buy, added Cali Sartor, vice president of marketing and advertising.
“It’s an unprecedented time and we’re all doing what we can to keep things moving forward,” she said.
Officials of TD Ameritrade say they have maintained a regimen of continually disinfecting “high-touch” areas like doorknobs, elevator buttons and workstations at its corporate campuses across the U.S., despite sending all 10,000 employees home beginning March 25.
That aims to help protect a small number of employees who have to go back into the buildings for various reasons, said Debra Baker, chief corporate security officer of the Omaha-based brokerage.
“We don’t want to let our guard down at all,” she said.
As infections spread in the U.S., some employees at ESCFederal, the janitorial-service firm, decided they were nervous about the environment and elected to stay home, senior vice president Bobby Walters said. For those who do go on-site, the firm has been able to provide gloves, and has also been able to get Tyvek suits and goggles after some delays. Despite sometimes receiving protective gear from other cleaning firms, masks have been hard to come by, he said.
Many cleaning services will still lose business during the pandemic since large numbers of regular commercial clients have closed their doors completely. ESCFederal will see its revenue fall 50% in April, said Mr. Videon, its CEO.
Grand Central Market, located in downtown Los Angeles, is home to 35 vendors, 121 apartments and some offices. Owner Adam Daneshgar said he wanted to try to keep the market disinfected despite traffic plunging from 15,000 people a day before the pandemic to a few hundred now.
“We want to send the message that we are a clean and safe destination,” he said.
As the crews were cleaning, the market’s security guards made sure no one lingered inside the market after shopping.
At G&B Coffee, customer Ron Holsey, a 39-year-old children’s television writer, wore a mask as he picked up his coffee from the counter one day last month. He said the cleaning procedures being carried out seemed appropriate.
“This is a good walk from my place and it seemed like a good way to combine a good walk with supporting a local business,” he said.
Job openings for cleaners are shooting through the roof as the U.S. mobilizes to contain the coronavirus, but hiring is likely to plunge in industries suffering most from the interruptions in daily life.
The online jobs marketplace ZipRecruiter says help-wanted ads for cleaners are on track to surge 75% in March compared to a year earlier. By contrast, they were just 24% higher in January.
“There’s been a huge spike in demand for cleaning workers,” Julia Pollack, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, told MarketWatch. “We didn’t see much of a change in February, but the first few weeks of March we are seeing a big shift.”
Many companies, workplaces and transportation systems are trying to assure customers they are safe by sanitizing and deep cleaning their premises. That’s leading to a steep increase in demand for cleaning services, Pollack said.
Postings for work at hospitals and other health-care jobs have also risen, though not as rapidly. Unemployment in the industry is already at a record low of 2% and there’s not a very large pool of qualified candidates for hire, according to Indeed Hiring Lab.
These jobs also require more skill and often involve licensing requirements.
The news is not so good for retailers, restaurants, hotels, airlines and other companies that cater to a public increasingly reluctant to venture out. Help-wanted ads are drying up for jobs in those fields.
“While there hasn’t been much evidence of layoffs yet, we can see where hiring is slowing down,” Pollack said.
The ‘social distancing” being encouraged to limit the spread of the COVID-19 illness couldn’t come at a worse time for already struggling brick-and-mortar retailers. They could lose more business to Internet-only rivals as Americans shift even more to online shopping to avoid exposure to large crowds.
“The retail apocalypse was really severe in 2019,” Pollack said. “It’s likely to get worse this year accelerate the trend toward e-commerce.”
Other industries expected to take a big hit include energy and manufacturing.
The plunge in U.S. and global travel have sent oil prices tumbling. At the same time disruptions in global supply chains have wreaked havoc on manufacturers that still haven’t fully recovered from the U.S. trade war with China.
What might help keep the labor market stabile is temporary employment for the U.S. Census. The government is aiming to hire 500,000 people to canvass the country in the next few months for the once-in-a-decade Census taking.
“This might pull in some people who temporarily lose work due to the virus,” Pollack said.
That is, assuming the government proceeds as planned with the Census. Sending 500,000 people around the county to survey tens of millions of Americans is not an ideal strategy amid a nationwide effort to suppress an epidemic. Coronavirus Commercial And Residential,Coronavirus Commercial And Residential,Coronavirus Commercial And Residential,Coronavirus Commercial And Residential,Coronavirus Commercial And Residential,Coronavirus Commercial And Residential
Coronavirus Sparks Hiring Spree for Nearly 500,000 Jobs at Biggest Retailers
While small firms are under pressure to let people go, large sellers of food and other essentials are bulking to meet rising demand.
Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and CVS Health Corp. are among about a dozen large companies looking to hire nearly 500,000 Americans in coming weeks, a spree that would mark a major shift of the U.S. workforce from smaller businesses and others that have cut staff to survive the coronavirus.
The hiring push comes as these companies are managing a surge in demand for food and other household products that have taxed their stores and warehouses. At the same time, they are seeking to lure hourly workers to front-line or logistics jobs where they face risks of being near co-workers or consumers that could have been exposed to the deadly respiratory virus.
“There are too many customers for our staffing to handle most of the time,” said Cody Clark, who works at Brookshire’s Food & Pharmacy in Tyler, Texas. Ms. Clark, 22, said she has been nervous about going to the store. “Customers come in and get frustrated whenever we don’t have something. They don’t understand we’re putting ourselves out there.”
Many of the big chains have started offering enhanced benefits, such as paid sick time and child-care services, even for temporary or part-time workers. They have also temporarily boosted their hourly wages or promised cash bonuses for the people who run cash registers, unload trucks or work in e-commerce warehouses.
The coronavirus has infected more than 32,000 Americans, prompting California, New York, Illinois and other states to order non-essential businesses to close and residents to limit their travel. Unemployment claims have surged in March as many small restaurants and retailers have shut their doors or scaled back.
Thousands of retail stores from Macy’s Inc. to Best Buy Co. have temporarily closed their doors, though they continue to handle online orders and pay workers for two weeks. Marriott International Inc. plans to furlough tens of thousands of workers. But grocers and other essential stores are open and looking to poach those staff and others that have been dislocated.
Lower wages correlate with closer personal interactions at work, meaning people with those jobs have a greater potential to be exposed to contagious diseases. Only health-care workers, who tend to be higher wage earners, have more exposure.
Big restaurant chains are looking to add to their fleet of delivery drivers as they shut dining rooms and more people order takeout or home delivery. On Monday, Papa John’s International Inc. said it is looking to add up to 20,000 staff. Domino’s Pizza Inc. said last week it would hire more than 10,000.
Walmart, the biggest U.S. private employer, is trying to make the biggest push. It plans to hire 150,000 additional people and has enhanced its paid sick-time policy for all its store and warehouse workers. It is speeding its hiring process from a typical two-week process to 24 hours.
Walmart, which employs around 1.5 million people in the U.S., also said it would pay special cash bonuses totaling $550 million to its hourly workers and its e-commerce warehouses will receive a $2-an-hour increase through late May.
“It’s not so much about filling a gap, but there is just so much demand,” said Walmart’s executive vice president of public affairs, Dan Bartlett, on a call with reporters last week. Absences are higher than a typical flu season, he said, but not at a level that would cause alarm.
Amazon was the first big employer to move, as online orders surged. Last week, the ecommerce giant said it planned to hire an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the U.S. and raise pay for all employees in fulfillment centers, transportation, stores and deliveries in the U.S. and Canada by $2 an hour through April. Target Corp. has also raised wages for its hourly workers by $2 an hour
Grocers too have been trying to keep up with surging demand for food. Kroger Co., the nation’s biggest supermarket chain, said it wants to hire 10,000 new workers at stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers. Albertsons Cos., the second-biggest supermarket chain, said it plans to hire about 30,000 store and delivery staffers across the country. Publix Super Markets Inc. said it expects to hire at least 2,000 store and warehouse workers by the end of March.
Some grocers are implementing paid sick leave as the coronavirus spreads and their workers face more risks. Kroger has extended paid time off for workers who are self-isolating or have symptoms, in addition to those diagnosed with Covid-19 and those placed under mandatory quarantine.
On Monday, CVS said it would hire 50,000 workers across its U.S. locations. The drugstore giant also said it would offer 24 hours of paid sick leave to part-time workers and cash bonuses to employees who are required to work amid the outbreak.
Dollar General Corp., the chain of around 15,000 small stores in mostly rural areas, said Monday it plans to hire 50,000 more people by the end of April. Rival Dollar Tree Inc. is looking to add 25,000 staff.
SpartanNash Co., which owns more than 150 grocery stores and distributes food to about 2,100 more, has doubled daily hires to keep up with the rising demand. About 20 people from its corporate headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., worked on Thursday night at a nearby store that needed extra help.
“We’re hiring more people than we have ever before,” said Yvonne Trupiano, chief human resources officer for SpartanNash, which operates Dan’s and Econofoods chains in the Midwest.
With sales tripling in recent weeks, SpartanNash expects to hire up to 2,000 full-time, part-time and temp staffers—a 10% increase in headcount. Ms. Trupiano said there is some concern among staffers about coming into stores where they come into contact with hundreds of customers.
The company has extended 14 days of sick pay to workers who feel ill, added more store discounts for workers and is considering temperature checks for staffers when they come to work, Ms. Trupiano said.
‘I Have To Pay My Bills’: A Miami Janitor Braves Coronavirus Worries, Clings To Work
Elsa Romero is holding on to her office-cleaning job even as the skyscraper empties out and more workers ride out the coronavirus pandemic at home.
The new coronavirus has emptied out cubicles and desks across America. Many of the buildings that house these offices, however, remain open to accommodate businesses with essential work to do.
This provides a lifeline for Elsa Romero, a 56-year-old native of Honduras who has been cleaning offices, homes and other facilities for 20 years. Ms. Romero, a diabetic, cleans two floors at the Miami Tower, earning the $700 to $800 a month in take-home pay needed to cover her expenses, including a bare-bones health insurance plan.
Ms. Romero can’t afford days off, so the continued demand for the skyscraper’s upkeep from cleaners like herself is essential for her well-being.
“I don’t have the luxury to stay home because it’s not like I would stay home and get paid,” she said through a translator from the Service Employees International Union. She doesn’t receive paid sick days from her employer, SFM Services Inc., a janitorial contracting company.
Ms. Romero’s shift runs from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., paying $9 an hour. She is part of a group of employees seeking to unionize.
The city of Miami Beach directed all hotels to close last week, and Miami-Dade County has shut beaches, parks, bars and restaurants. Many Floridians avoid regularly leaving their homes.
Because many of the people working at the Miami Tower have the luxury to work from their houses, Ms. Romero finds herself cleaning spaces that largely go unused.
This has lowered the concerns she had been having about picking up the virus at her job. It also provides time for deep-cleaning and sanitizing areas she normally can’t address in a regular shift.
“We’re doing the baseboards, the tops of furniture,” she said. “We’ll make everything shine now so when the clients come back everything looks good.”
The commute to and from work requires catching two buses and up to two hours each way—time spent worrying another rider may come too close. “I get a little anxious when I’m riding the bus,” she said.
The future also provides a dose of anxiety.
“I’m scared of course because I have to pay my bills,” she said. “The work is still here, obviously there’s much to do, and I think that’s why we’re still here.”
And she fears falling behind on her bills and relying on her two adult children to provide for her. “I don’t want to be a burden to my daughters,” she said.
Ms. Romero arrived in the U.S. from Honduras in 1988, and lives alone in a trailer in northwest Miami.
SFM Services has given cleaners training about staying safe, she said, encouraging them to change gloves often, wash their hands and use antibacterial lotion. They were also instructed to enter elevators only two at a time with their carts, instead of many squeezing in tightly together as they did before.
SFM doesn’t provide masks, Ms. Romero said. She has tried to purchase some, but they are hard to find. The company didn’t have an immediate comment on the situation.
Ms. Romero’s health insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of her insulin, so she rations it carefully. Recently, she went to the hospital at midnight because she had lesions on her feet. She was kept under observation until 2 p.m., and then went to work at the normal start time.
Ms. Romero doesn’t envision finding another job in the near term if this one goes away.
“I don’t have a plan B,” she said. “I couldn’t apply for another job because everything is closed. It would be terrible for me.”
Warehouse Hiring Surge Defies Crashing U.S. Jobs Market
Payrolls grew at distribution centers last month, while other transportation operators pull back in a weakening American economy.
Warehousing companies defied the national rush to eliminate jobs in March, adding thousands of new hires as consumer stockpiling of food and household goods placed heavy demand on distribution networks.
Warehousing and storage operators brought on 8,200 workers last month, the largest monthly increase since January in a sector that includes grocery distribution and e-commerce fulfillment centers, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday.
The gains came as big employers including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. moved to hire hundreds of thousands of workers to keep Americans supplied during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hiring at other logistics operations, including trucking companies and couriers that carry consumer goods, pulled back, however. The cutbacks were part of a grim overall jobs picture as U.S. employers shed 701,000 jobs in March, the largest monthly decline in payrolls in 11 years, according to a jobs report that doesn’t fully reflect the millions of unemployment-insurance claims filed in the last two weeks of March.
Warehousing is a different story as retailers and their suppliers scramble to keep up with consumers stockpiling food and household goods. Labor demand is “off the charts” at distribution operations handling essential products, said Brian Devine, senior vice president of logistics-staffing firm ProLogistix, which works with companies including Walmart and Target Corp.
Mr. Devine said companies are asking to bring on 40 to 100 new warehouse workers at a time, with some employers telling workers “this is not a temporary job.”
Manpower North America, a subsidiary of staffing company ManpowerGroup, said most of its logistics and distribution clients are still hiring at the same or higher volumes than a month ago. The company is working with clients in hard-hit industries such as hospitality to redeploy furloughed workers in warehouse, manufacturing and other jobs.
The broader jobs report carried warning signs for logistics companies about future demand. Goods-producing companies cut 54,000 jobs as the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S., and cutbacks in areas including manufacturing and construction appear to already have transportation companies pulling back their own investments.
North American orders for heavy-duty Class 8 trucks, the big rigs that haul goods long distances, fell 52% in March from the previous year to the lowest level since 2010, according to preliminary figures from transportation data provider FTR. The research group said trucking companies also were canceling earlier orders in bigger numbers last month.
“Most fleets will pause their replacement cycles due to the crisis,” Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles, said. “The second quarter will be tough on the Class 8 market, and the third quarter is still highly uncertain.”
Demand For In-Home Care Rises During Coronavirus
As older adults shelter in place, an already-stretched caregiver network faces new strains; ‘The most vulnerable to Covid are going to be staying home longer than the rest of us’.
Over the past three years, Paula Newbaker has relied on in-home caregivers to help with her 88-year-old mother, who has dementia.
When the new coronavirus began spreading last month, Ms. Newbaker and the caregivers decided that the risks were too great for them to continue coming to the home in western Pennsylvania. Since then, her mother has become more disagreeable and lost some mobility. While Ms. Newbaker is eager to have the caregivers back, she’s cautious.
“I don’t know when we are going to feel safe enough for that,” she says.
The coronavirus is putting a new focus on the importance of home care and the strains on its workers and the people relying on them. Some families are canceling in-home care as they fear risks of contagion for older parents and relatives. Others are taking loved ones out of nursing facilities, hoping to avoid a deadly outbreak, and now looking for home-health aides. At the same time, the virus is a threat to the home-care workers, who are out in the community providing hands-on care for average wages of $12-$13 an hour.
Even before the pandemic, demand for home-health aides was expected to exceed supply by more than 3 million in the next decade. Until there is a vaccine that can protect those most at risk, the need for these workers, whether paid by individuals or through Medicare and Medicaid, is expected to remain high. “The most vulnerable to Covid are going to be staying home longer than the rest of us and are going to need help to keep them safe,” says Janet Kim, spokesperson for Caring Across Generations, an advocacy group for paid and family caregivers.
A month ago, none of the 600 home-care providers represented by the Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice had reported infections among workers, says Joe Russell, the council’s executive director. “Now everyone does have some of their work force quarantined or actually sick,” says Mr. Russell, who organized a drive for donations of personal protective equipment to home-care agencies that didn’t have enough.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued guidelines for home health-care agencies, recommending wearing face masks and giving flexibility to allow telehealth for some services.
Data on the impact of Covid-19 on home-care workers is scarce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of April 9 in the U.S. more than 9,200 health-care professionals, a much broader sector, had been infected with the coronavirus, and said it was likely an undercount.
Bianca Frogner, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, estimates that if all such workers were tested, around 425,000 direct-care workers—which includes home-health aides, personal-care aides and nursing assistants—would test positive, based on data as of April 22 from Washington state, New York, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University. The actual positive cases will depend in part, she says, on how well workers are protected with equipment.
Yet demand continues to rise. In the last three weeks, Jeff Huber, CEO of Home Instead Senior Care, has seen an increase in the number of people looking for in-home care, as well as the degree of their need. The average hours of care per client has risen to 30 hours a week from 20-25, he says. “These are people coming out of hospitals to make room for more Covid-19 patients,” says Mr. Huber, whose Home Instead has more than 1,100 home-care franchises world-wide.
Anne Cassista, of Ashland City, Tenn., recently took her 92-year-old husband, Floyd, out of a memory-care unit of a psychiatric facility because she was no longer able to visit him due to Covid-19 restrictions. He entered the unit in early April and his condition had deteriorated. He wasn’t eating and was in diapers.
“I know we are both coming to the end of the journey, but I didn’t want him to die without me holding his hand,” says Mrs. Cassista, 85, and a former ballet dancer. They have been married 15 years, since they met at church, where Mr. Cassista passed the collection basket. He was a handsome man who dressed nicely and had silver hair, she says. “It looked like a halo.”
To bring him home, Mrs. Cassista needed help. She assembled a team, including privately paid caregivers who come four days a week for four hours. Her husband has been home since April 15 and is eating better and able to walk and carry on conversations, she says.
The coronavirus also has upended home-care arrangements for those with disabilities. Katrina Simons, 32, a community-program specialist for the University of Minnesota, has cerebral palsy and relies on a team of part-time workers coming into her Minneapolis apartment to get her in and out of bed, bathed, dressed and fed. She needs three hours of help in the morning and four in the evening and pays $13.25 an hour.
In mid-March, several caregivers who were college students told her they were going home because classes were canceled. “I lost four staff in 48 hours,” says Ms. Simons.
A week ago, another helper quit to do child care for a family that asked that she work exclusively for them because of the virus risks, offering to pay her $20 an hour.
Now Ms. Simons’s home-care setup is tenuous. Filling in various shifts are a waitress who was laid off from a pizza shop at the airport, a musical therapist who lost her job, and an apprentice in a welding program that was suspended. She expects most of them to eventually return to their full-time jobs and programs.
‘I’ve always been worried about a staff shortage, and I worry about it getting worse during Covid-19,” she says. “It’s not a job many people would take. They can earn more collecting unemployment.”
Many home-care aides continue to work, taking extra precautions to keep themselves and the people they care for safe.
Sheila Bingham Jones, 55, arrives five mornings a week at the home of Ernest Jackson, 93, one of the first African Americans in the Marine Corps. She makes his breakfast, buys groceries, and tends to his swollen legs. Before the pandemic hit, she took him to his medical appointments. Now she talks with the doctors on the phone.
When packages arrive, she disinfects the contents outside the house. She sprays the bottom of her shoes or brings an extra pair, and wipes down counters, door handles, phones, and remote controls when she arrives. If she uses his debit card to buy groceries, she sanitizes it after and keeps it in a Ziploc bag. “I’m on heightened mental alert,” she says.
When she told Mr. Jackson he could no longer come into the grocery store or bank with her, he initially objected.
“I had to sit down and explain the seriousness of what is going on,” says Ms. Bingham Jones, who takes the same precautions when she stops in to see her 87-year-old mother, who lives with her brother.
She never considered not coming to care for Mr. Jackson. “It’s my job, but I love what I do,” she says.
Mr. Jackson’s daughter, Lynette Johnson, 69, lives 70 miles away and relies on Ms. Bingham Jones, and the safety measures she takes, to help her father remain at home where he is safe and happy. “I don’t have to worry,” she says.
Ms. Newbaker, in western Pennsylvania, left her public-relations job in Washington, D.C., three years ago to help care for her mother—Eralda, known as Rae—who has dementia and spinal stenosis. Two caregivers, one a physical therapist and the other occupational, were coming to their home two mornings a week.
When the coronavirus began spreading and the state issued a shelter-in-place order, she and her caregivers decided it was best they didn’t come. The caregivers worked at other facilities and could unwittingly bring the virus into the Newbaker home. Rae was also due for a six-week Medicare-covered physical-therapy package, but Ms. Newbaker and her mother’s doctor agreed to hold off because of Covid 19.
It’s been difficult, says Ms. Newbaker. The home-care workers brightened their days, and sometimes noticed things Ms. Newbaker didn’t, like a scaly patch on her mother’s skin or redness in her eyes. They bathed her mother, got her to take her medication and exercise, all things that she resists when her daughter does them.
“It’s taking a toll on both of us,” Ms. Newbaker says.
Pandemic Job Market Has Bright Spots for Recent High School Grads
Young, flexible workers find opportunities in entry-level jobs, but face uncertain future.
High school graduates entered the labor market this summer during a deep economic downturn, but while that presented a serious hurdle—especially for those not pursuing college—many of these young, flexible workers are finding jobs.
Teenage workers were among the hardest hit by the pandemic this spring because they are concentrated in fields that suffered the most from coronavirus-induced shutdowns and restrictions: low-wage, in-person service jobs in locations such as restaurants and retail stores. But since April, teen employment has grown much faster than that of the overall workforce, in part because some older workers are reluctant to take entry-level jobs.
Job openings for those with just a high-school education and little work experience are on the rise, according to job boards and staffing companies. The unemployment rate for those 16 to 19 years old fell to 16.1% in August—just below the long-run average since 1948—from 31.9% in April, according to the Labor Department. The overall unemployment rate, 8.4% in August, was 45% higher than its historical average.
Last month’s teen unemployment rate suggests that while the labor market for the class of 2020 isn’t as strong as for the prior two years’ classes, it is in line with that for the class of 2016.
“There’s still strong demand in a lot of areas, and that’s where I see recent high school graduates have an opening,” said Jack Van Tiem, vice president overseeing the northern U.S. and Canada at staffing company Kelly Professional & Industrial, part of Kelly Services Inc.
Mr. Van Tiem said some people—including parents dealing with child-care concerns and older workers trying to avoid getting sick—have opted out of the labor force, creating more opportunity for high school graduates who want to work. “Employers are in a position where they have to give these young people a chance.”
Jesse Sanchez, an 18-year-old who graduated in June from high school in San Antonio, is among those finding job opportunities. He didn’t want to attend college, especially after struggling with the pandemic-induced shift to online classes.
A cleaning company hired him on the spot without even asking for a résumé for a part-time job this summer, he said. Mr. Sanchez plans to enter a 10-month program to learn hair-cutting starting in November, following the suggestion of his pastor.
“Honestly, I’m not really worried,” Mr. Sanchez said, adding that his local barber shop has stayed busy in recent months. “I feel like I’m making the right decision for myself.”
The number of weekly openings for jobs requiring no postsecondary education and minimal on-the-job training, such as supermarket and delivery jobs, were 14% above their pre-pandemic level at the end of August, according to job search site ZipRecruiter. Overall job openings were 29% below their pre-pandemic level.
“Many of the entry-level jobs like warehouse jobs and cashier jobs are doing extremely well,” ZipRecruiter economist Julia Pollak said, though she added some of those jobs have high turnover that typically generates more openings.
Still, a lot of young people aren’t working. The number of people in that age group who are employed remains about 12% below pre-pandemic levels, suggesting many are opting not to look for a job. Ms. Pollak said it is possible some parents have asked their children to avoid working because of fears of coronavirus infection.
This year’s recession caused by the pandemic and related shutdowns led to the highest overall unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
While data on economic activity and job growth suggest the recovery began in early summer, some teenagers with jobs say they still face uncertain futures due to the pandemic.
Lily Gentile, an 18-year-old high school graduate in Portland, Ore., had planned to go to part-time aesthetician school, with a focus on nails and skin care, once she got her diploma. That changed when the pandemic caused the school to close down temporarily. She recently was able to increase her hours at a Starbucks, where she has worked since January, to about 27 a week.
An aesthetician job would pay better and have more flexible hours, Ms. Gentile said. A temporary pay raise at the coffee shop offered early in the pandemic has since been rescinded.
“I’m not financially where I want to be,” she said. “But I’m lucky to have what I do.”
Teen workers seem to be faring better, relative to other age groups, than they have in past recessions, said Northwestern University economist Hannes Schwandt, noting their comparatively low unemployment rate and the fact that their wages appear to be maintaining their prepandemic upward trend.
Mr. Schwandt’s research with Till von Wachter, of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that entering the labor market during a recession can weigh on a graduate’s earnings for more than 10 years. Their research, which looked at labor markets between 1976 and 2016, found high school graduates faced larger income losses than college-going peers, possibly because of a less-structured transition into the labor market.
However, federal data he analyzed suggests that 16- to 19-year-olds who were hired after April were less likely to work full time and, on average, worked slightly fewer hours than before the pandemic, which raises concerns.
“How do these jobs turn into careers?” Mr. Schwandt said. “Because if you lose the job next month again, it’s not really a big help.” He said he worries that some young workers may lose their jobs as the weather turns colder and outdoor restaurants close down.
The pandemic changed Patrick Somers’ path after he graduated from high school this spring. Mr. Somers, 18, delayed plans to study environmental law at Weber State University because he didn’t want to pay tuition for what he anticipated would be an online education. He moved to Portland, where he got a full-time job at a mortgage company. His college plans are on hold.
Mr. Somers said he is happy to have full-time work that pays well. “The big question mark is what should we do next?” he said. “It’s not how I pictured my life going at this point in time.”
Amazon To Hire 100,000 In U.S. And Canada
New full- and part-time positions will pay at least $15 an hour.
Amazon.com Inc. plans to hire 100,000 additional employees in the U.S. and Canada, continuing its hiring spree during a jump in online shopping caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The e-commerce giant said Monday it would hire full- and part-time positions at dozens of locations, with the new jobs paying at least $15 an hour and including benefits and signing bonuses of as much as $1,000 in some cities. Hiring for the jobs has already begun.
The Seattle-based company also said it would open 100 operational buildings this month alone, including fulfillment centers, delivery stations, sorting centers and other sites. That will add to more than 75 others already opened this year in Canada and the U.S., it said.
The outsize expansion comes after Amazon experienced a wave of orders this year when coronavirus restrictions pushed millions more people toward online shopping. Retailers like Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. as well as e-commerce companies such as Instacart Inc. also saw immense growth online and hired hundreds of thousands of workers.
Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the U.S. behind Walmart, added 175,000 warehouse workers in March and April, 125,000 of whom it intends to keep permanently. Last week, it announced 33,000 vacancies for corporate and technology positions.
That stands in stark contrast to other companies and industries that are cutting tens of thousands of jobs. Amid a slump in passenger demand, U.S. airlines shed about 50,000 jobs in the first half of the year alone. Traditional retailers like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus Group Inc., J.Crew Group Inc. and others have filed for bankruptcy.
Amazon, which accounts for more than a third of online U.S. sales, has been profitable even during the pandemic. The company posted a record $88.9 billion in sales during its second quarter, and profit doubled year-over-year to $5.2 billion.
In the same quarter, it also spent more than $9 billion in capital projects. The company’s nonretail segments, such as its cloud computing and advertising businesses, continue to see fast growth, creating further job opportunities.
Including temporary workers that the company describes as seasonal, Amazon has more than one million employees world-wide. Its total head count in the U.S. without seasonal employees exceeds 600,000, with more than 100,000 of those in the corporate ranks.
Amid the rising sales, the company’s shares are up almost 70% this year. That has taken its market capitalization to around $1.6 trillion, behind only Apple Inc.
Making Offices Safe For Workers, And Making Money Doing It
To guard against Covid-19, companies look to reshape workplace with tracking apps, touchless doors and plant-festooned dividers.
Bringing employees back to work could mean big business for the designers, engineers and software companies selling products designed to boost office safety and ease workers’ worries in the pandemic.
Their solutions go well beyond plexiglass sheets and hand sanitizer. Apps to guide office traffic, sensors that detect when to call in the cleaners, germ-repelling paint and plant-bedecked partitions are among the growing array of products and services aiming to virus-proof workplaces.
The potential of this market remains hazy, if only because of the variety of possible suppliers, ranging from engineering giants to design companies to Silicon Valley startups. But as employers adapt to life with the novel coronavirus, firms say they expect sustained demand.
Some products are geared for immediate needs wherever workers are already streaming back. Others are longer-term solutions. But businesses involved in this market say they believe that Covid-19 will force a permanent rethinking of how offices operate.
“There is no going back to before corona,” said Ingo Hartlief, chief executive of DEMIRE Deutsche Mittelstand Real Estate AG, which owns 84 commercial buildings across Germany. “We’re going to have to offer additional services.”
One sector that has been quick to respond is the smart building market, where Honeywell International Inc., France’s Schneider Electric SA, Germany’s Siemens AG and others offer apps, sensors, software and other products to control anything from air quality to cleaning frequency and office occupancy.
Siemens, like many large corporations, plans to allow for more remote work in the future. In July it said some 140,000 employees in 43 countries could permanently work from home two to three days a week.
At the same time, the company’s building-technology arm is touting tools to help offices return, such as Comfy, a workplace app that can monitor office occupancy, enable staff to book desks or meeting rooms and distribute the latest local health guidelines.
Pre-pandemic, companies used Comfy to improve productivity and employee happiness at work, said Elisa Rönkä, head of digital market development Europe at Siemens Smart Infrastructure. Now, they are using it to help employees feel safer, she said.
“There is an acceleration of interest in the app and an acceleration in the timeline clients want such technology deployed,” Ms. Rönkä said.
Amar Goel, chairman of digital advertising firm PubMatic Inc., realized a similar idea with Safeter, an app for employers to send staff health questionnaires or stagger office arrivals to avoid jams in hallways or outside elevators. Mr. Goel’s app has a free version, while one with arrival, departure or meeting scheduling features costs $5 per employee per month.
Gainsight Inc., one of the early adopters, said Safeter is helping ensure employee safety during a reopening for the San Francisco-based software company that has been much more complex than expected, Chief Executive Nick Mehta said in a statement marking the app’s launch.
Charles Reed Anderson, a Singapore-based consultant on property technology, said products for the pandemic are proliferating, citing temperature-scanning apps as an example. “All startups I keep track of are suddenly stopping what they’re doing and are creating Covid solutions.”
The risk, he said, is that building owners find themselves with even more different technology platforms to manage in an already fragmented market.
Adoption of some of the tools will depend on the speed of the return to the workplace, how quickly a vaccine becomes available and how big a role remote work will play in the future. In Germany, France, Italy and Spain, over 70% of office workers had returned to work as of mid-July but only 34% in the U.K., according to a Morgan Stanley survey of 12,500 people.
In the U.S., many companies recently postponed the move, with some, including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., permitting remote work for the foreseeable future.
Many companies expect working from home to become a permanent option, but it’s unclear how that would impact demand for office space. Some real-estate executives say demand might even increase as social distancing requires more space per employee. Others fear that a global recession, not just the virus, would push companies to cut space.
Either way, said Zach Vaughan, head of real estate in Europe at Brookfield Asset Management Inc., “The critical task employers have is to build confidence among their employee base that their offices are safe.”
Mr. Vaughan said the Canadian company with some $203 billion of real-estate assets under management is accelerating investments in building safety, in particular air filtration and ways to minimize the transmission of the virus through touch.
Liviu Tudor, a European property developer and president of lobby group European Property Federation, has invested more than $1 million through his firm in creating a new standard to certify buildings for their level of resilience to the pandemic.
He set up a team of 20 health, technology, real-estate and engineering experts to compile a list of more than 100 features—partly inspired by technologies used in hospitals—that could earn a building such certification.
Mr. Tudor is testing the features with Swedish telecom company Ericsson, which rents an office building in Bucharest from Genesis Property, the company he heads. The office now includes features such as antimicrobial paint, UV-light disinfection systems, self-cleaning toilets and a quarantine room if someone suddenly shows symptoms or tests positive, with the landlord and tenant splitting the cost.
In the future, Mr. Tudor says it should be up to building owners to invest to make offices safer. He estimates such upgrades would add 2% to the current cost of a building—an investment, he says, that would increase the value of the property.
Randall Buescher, senior vice president of architecture at Epstein Global, which is advising Mr. Tudor on the new safety standard, said his designers have sketched out the office of the future.
In May, the Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm won a competition on designing the post-Covid workplace launched by furniture maker Herman Miller Inc. and distributor Interior Investments LLC. Epstein Global’s entry included fully automated doors, touchless elevators that can be summoned with a phone app, foot-operated kitchen cabinets and trash cans, antibacterial curtains to separate people in meeting rooms and plant-bedecked partitions to improve air filtration.
Les jardins de Gally, a French agriculture and landscaping company, offers what it calls “plant-based social distancing solutions,” walls or room partitions made out of greenery.
Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the effort to make buildings safer was overdue even before the pandemic.
“What this virus is exposing is that our buildings aren’t designed for human health first,” said Mr. Allen, citing underventilation as an example. A healthy office now has become central to a business being able to function, he said.
Where Can You Find A New Job? Try These U.S. Cities
Hubs located far from the coasts emerged as beacons to job seekers and businesses during the pandemic.
Salt Lake City has top-notch ski resorts, challenging bike trails and breathtaking views of the Wasatch Mountains. It also is home to the hottest job market in the U.S.
As the pandemic raged through the U.S. in 2020, no metropolitan area in the country expanded the size of its labor force more on a percentage basis than Utah’s capital. It also had the lowest average unemployment rate and the highest share of people working or looking for jobs. These signs of strength helped it rank first among 53 large metro areas in an annual examination of U.S. labor markets conducted by The Wall Street Journal, after ranking No. 4 in 2019.
Other cities that emerged as beacons to job seekers and businesses during the pandemic were, like Salt Lake City, located far from the coasts. Hubs in the Southwest and Midwest such as Austin, Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City minimized employment losses, kept unemployment relatively low and retained and attracted workers in a year when the U.S. lost more than 9 million jobs.
Some benefited from technology jobs that became even more critical during a time of isolation for many Americans, while others relied on older corners of the economy that were also in high demand. Workers gravitated to these places due to the job opportunities, lower costs and a quieter lifestyle that appealed to some migrants from bigger population centers who were now allowed to work remotely.
The losers were tourist hot spots such as Las Vegas or densely-populated cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago that lost workers as the coronavirus spread. Even once-hot tech hubs of San Francisco, Raleigh, N.C., and Boston suffered declines. Some of these laggards were more aggressive with their business lockdowns, allowing rival metros with fewer restrictions and lower costs to capitalize on the chaos.
Whether these changes are temporary or lasting is too soon to know. Some cities that lost a lot of jobs in 2020 likely rebounded with more robust hiring in March, according to a Labor Department report from early April that showed strong national job gains in restaurants, bars, entertainment and hotels.
Forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal project about 6 million jobs to be added across the U.S. in the next 12 months, which would be the best such stretch of job creation on records back to the 1940s.
Some expect the top performers in 2020 to consolidate their gains. “Coming out of the pandemic, and out of this recession, their edge is probably only going to get larger,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Adam Kamins. Moody’s Analytics provided data for The Wall Street Journal’s rankings.
The ‘Silicon Slopes’
To determine the strongest job market in the country, the Journal assessed regions with more than 1 million residents on five labor market indicators: the average unemployment rate, the labor-force participation rate, the change in payrolls, weekly wages and the percentage increase in the size of the workforce.
Salt Lake City rose to the top thanks to fewer business shutdowns, more moderate health consequences from Covid-19 and a young and well-educated population that supported a tech sector that was already on fire before the pandemic began. Research from the University of Utah found that the state’s tech industry’s job growth averaged 3.6% a year between 2007 and 2017, more than double the national pace during the same period.
The region spanning the neighboring cities of Provo and Salt Lake City had so much momentum over the last decade that it acquired the nickname “Silicon Slopes.” Provo’s labor market ranked No. 17 last year among 328 smaller metro areas with fewer than 1 million residents, according to the Journal’s analysis. Another area north of Salt Lake City, Ogden, was No. 1 among the smaller metros.
Measuring The Markets
The Wall Street Journal looked at five indicators to measure how well job markets performed. Nationally, most of those indicators worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, though wages improved as lower paying jobs vanished at a swifter rate.
“We went into the pandemic well-positioned,” said Natalie Gochnour, associate dean at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.
Salt Lake City wasn’t immune from the spread of Covid-19, but it was able to avoid multiple shutdowns that crippled other cities. It did so partly because of a shared local effort to keep businesses open.
The local chamber of commerce and state health department partnered on a campaign where participating local companies committed to having their employees maintain distance from others, wear masks and stay home when they are sick.
Utah and other states with fewer business restrictions tended to have less dramatic increases in unemployment last year, according to Labor Department data, though many states with looser Covid-19 restrictions had higher case counts and more deaths. It was a difficult balancing act for government officials who had to consider their economies while also protecting their populations.
Utah was able to achieve that balance largely because of the resilience of its population. It ranked fourth among states for Covid-19 cases as a share of the population, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, yet the state had among the fewest deaths per 1,000 residents through April 7.
One possible factor in that result, according to Ms. Gochnour, was the area’s young population. Utah has the youngest median age of any state, according to the Census Bureau. Children and young adults die from Covid-19 at far lower rates.
By early 2021, employment in business services and information was close to year-earlier levels in Salt Lake City, according to the Labor Department. Those tend to be better paying, higher-tech jobs. Employment in finance was already 4.4% above pre pandemic levels in February, the latest available data.
Leslie Hackett, who owns two Express Employment Professionals staffing offices in the Salt Lake City area, said she is only able to immediately fill about half of the requests for placements because it is so difficult to find enough workers.
“We’re finding that when unemployment is this low, we have to recruit working people away from another job to come to us,” Ms. Hackett said.
Seeking New Opportunity
The optimistic employment picture in Salt Lake City was part of the attraction for newcomers Romina Boccia and her husband Grice Mulligan, who traded a 90-minute commute in East Coast traffic for a home office with a view of the Wasatch Mountains. For Ms. Boccia, 36-years old, the coronavirus served as a moment to reflect, and reset goals.
“If we were going to be stuck in a place for sometime, we’d rather be stuck in Utah,” she said.
The decision was about more than the views, however. Ms. Boccia landed an event programming job that allowed her to work remotely and Mr. Mulligan, 53, found he could easily shift his startup ambitions out west. They had lived in the Washington, D.C., area for 15 years. She worked as an economist for a think tank and he oversaw software projects for government organizations.
“It appears to be exceptionally friendly to business here,” Mr. Mulligan said. His company, Pubtelly LLC, sells software to sports bars and similar establishments to manage content playing on their TVs. The Salt Lake area has a healthy mix of growing startups and well-established companies, he said, plus a strong local university network that serves as a pipeline for younger talent.
If his current venture doesn’t pan out, Mr. Mulligan said he would be happy to stay in the Salt Lake area, either working for a local company or launching another business. “I don’t see a challenge with either going to work for someone else, or forming a company with others,” he said.
Another newcomer drawn to the region’s job market was Christine Spring, 55, who moved to Salt Lake City last October after retiring from her teaching job in Muskegon, Mich. Ms. Spring said she picked Salt Lake City because she thought it would be a good place to start a new career and she wanted to be closer to her two adult children—both of whom had moved to the area in previous years for work.
“It’s such a huge job market, I felt like it was kind of a wide open field,” she said, adding that job offers came much faster than she expected.
Within a week of her arrival in Salt Lake City, Ms. Spring had a temporary position through Express Employment as a receptionist in the Utah governor’s office. She was offered two permanent jobs in the weeks that followed, which she turned down, and became a permanent employee in the governor’s office in February.
One local company that added more workers during 2020 was mattress maker Purple Innovation Inc. It hired 1,200 employees in the past year, more than doubling its staff, and is looking to add more.
Most of Purple’s new jobs were manufacturing positions at the company’s suburban Salt Lake City production facility. They also included marketing, tech and finance jobs at Purple’s corporate headquarters in Lehi, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City.
There is “a lot of freedom and a lot of business-friendly policies that make it easy for companies to come in and to thrive,” said Mark Brown, vice president of human resources at Purple, who also cited the strength of the local universities and lower labor and building costs relative to coastal cities. “You just can’t go anywhere in the state where there’s not just substantial growth, both residential and commercial.”
Making It Work In Indianapolis
America’s other hot job markets, such as Austin and Denver, benefited from the migration of high-wage jobs, particularly in tech and finance, and their lower costs when compared with bigger population centers such as New York or San Francisco.
Indianapolis, the fourth-strongest labor market in The Wall Street Journal’s rankings of big metros, offered different strengths. It attracted and retained jobs seekers with a mix of industries that are buttressed against the pandemic. It is a state capital, home to drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. and has a manufacturing base, including Allison Transmission Inc.
Central Indiana also has a growing logistics and warehousing industry, including one of the country’s largest FedEx Corp. hubs, which increased in importance as more consumers shifted to online shopping.
One local employer that expanded in the past year was ClusterTruck, a delivery-only restaurant that added three new kitchens in the Indianapolis suburbs and hired about a dozen new staff members for each. The company even had to hire two full-time recruiters to manage its growth. New employees include line cooks, software engineers and project managers, some of which came from out of state, said ClusterTruck Chief Executive Chris Baggott.
ClusterTruck attributed its growth to new customers during the pandemic who ordered everything from pad thai to churros to eat at home. The company recently partnered with Kroger Co. , running kitchens out of two of the grocery store’s locations in a suburb of Indianapolis and Dublin, Ohio, and Mr. Baggott said he hopes to expand the partnership this year.
Indianapolis isn’t viewed, nationally, as a tech hotbed or a place with a thriving dining or nightlife scene. But Mr. Baggott said it has been a good location to start a business.
“It’s a great place to test and experiment,” he said, in part because “it looks like any place else…I know this will work in San Francisco. But, if I started in San Francisco, I’m not so sure it would work in Indianapolis.”
Not all Midwest cities are showing similar resilience. Cleveland and Detroit came at the bottom of the Journal’s rankings, near where they placed before the pandemic. That reflected longer-run challenges in both places, including a decadeslong decline in manufacturing jobs and loss of higher-skilled labor to other parts of the country.
Wheeling, W.Va., was the weakest market among smaller metros. It had among the largest decreases in wages as well as loss of jobs and job seekers. Energy and tourism, two important industries for the area, both suffered declines in 2020.
A Shining Light Of Recovery
The cities that fell the hardest in 2020 were tourist centers such as Orlando, Fla. It went from having one of the hottest job markets in 2019, ranking eighth, to among the weakest last year, falling to No. 47.
“The disproportionate and devastating impact that the pandemic had on tourism really hit the region’s economy hard,” said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting. Las Vegas and Miami were other tourist-focused cities that tumbled.
Still, Mr. Snaith said he thinks the region will see a relatively speedy recovery as widespread vaccinations and pent-up demand from people stuck at home fuels a rebound in tourism.
The number of nonfarm employees in the Orlando metro area edged up in February, the most recent data available, but remained 12.5% below year-ago levels, according to the Labor Department. Restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues helped drive strong national employment growth in March.
Major theme parks in the Orlando area reopened last summer, with restrictions such as capacity limits and face coverings for most guests. On a February earnings call, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Chapek said demand at the company’s parks has been strong.
Sonja Flowers was called back to her job as a restaurant server at Walt Disney World in March, a year after she was first furloughed. Ms. Flowers, 62, said she’s happy to be back at work but the time away will likely require her to push back her retirement plans.
“For me personally, I’m treading water,” Ms. Flowers said. “I was at a point in my life when I was able to start saving for retirement. Now I’m going to have to work a little longer.”
Marco Manzie, president of Paramount Hospitality Management, which runs five hotel properties in Orlando, said he is seeing demand pick up. Bookings rose sharply around the last two weeks of December, when Mr. Manzie said the company’s hotels surpassed 85% occupancy. After an early winter slowdown, bookings look strong for April and May.
“I think we’re going to be surprised this year,” Mr. Manzie said. “We’re finally taking a step back and saying, ‘Hey, we see a real shining light of recovery here.’”
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