The changing COVID economy has created these pandemic-proof jobs

Unemployment is still high, the economy is still in recession, and the COVID-19 virus is still raging. It’s not the greatest time to be job hunting.

But the changing economy, clawing its way back month by month, has created new needs and heightened demands in the COVID era for certain jobs that we might call pandemic-proof jobs.

The job sector expected to be most in demand over the next 10 years is the one on the front lines of the battling the pandemic: health care.

Six of the top ten occupations expected to grow the most through 2029 are in health care, according to a September employment projection from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tops among those are nurse practitioners, the advanced registered nurses who, in many cases, can stand in for physicians when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients. The Bureau expects 52 percent more nurse practitioners to be needed by 2029. And the job is made even more attractive with a median salary of $110,000.

Sarah Madison has analyzed job postings for the Cincinnati metro area on Burning Glass Technologies, a data analytics firm that tracks millions of job listings daily worldwide. She is the director of career management at University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics.

In Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, “Registered nurse was number one in terms of job postings,” she says.

She also analyzed available jobs posted by employers on Handshake, a recruitment platform used by employers and universities. “Health care, especially nursing, was number three,” she says.

Although most Greater Cincinnati hospital systems laid off or furloughed people early in the spring as elective procedures were halted, many have now been hired back. Some are even expanding. St. Elizabeth Healthcare is adding jobs to staff its new cancer center in Edgewood, Ky.

“We’ll look at 100 more different cancer providers by the time the system matures to add to our current team,” says Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of the cancer center. “We have almost 40 doctors and advanced practice nurse practitioners fighting cancer in the new building,” he says. “We’ve been hiring them at a pretty brisk clip.”

And in July, Cincinnati Children’s announced an expansion of its fetal care center, a collaboration with TriHealth, which includes a neonatal intensive care unit.

While the pandemic has created a need for more and better health care, it’s also accelerated demand for shopping from the safety of our homes. And that’s stepped up demand for getting products from Point A to Point B quickly and efficiently.

“All the jobs that are around e-commerce are in high demand right now,” says Janet Harrah, senior director of Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Economic Analysis and Development. “E-commerce is going to do nothing but grow in the next three to five years.”

This region will see much of that growth, as the world’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon, is building its central U.S. air hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

It’s planning to invest $1.5 billion in what will be a key link in its growing worldwide air operations. The company has promised to create 2,000-plus jobs at the airport, and many more indirect, spinoff jobs are expected to be created by other companies.

The company announced in August it wanted to fill 1,250 temporary, full-time jobs at the airport facility.

The airport is already home to one of the largest logistics companies in the world, DHL, which has steadily expanded and now operates what it calls a “super hub” at the airport.

In August, DHL said it would recruit for 650 positions there; about 600 of them in operations, and 50 in management.

DHL established its international Americas Hub at CVG in 2009 and since then has invested hundreds of millions to expand the operations, including building a new ramp to provide additional warehouse space, more aircraft gates to accommodate route expansions, and new equipment to increase sorting capacity as well as speed the unloading and reloading of planes.

As those companies continue to grow, they are expected to create direct or indirect jobs in other areas, including aerospace, advanced logistics, and high-tech materials handling.

Amazon and DHL are big links in the supply chain, the backbone of the economy that is the process by which raw materials are manufactured into products, which are delivered to wholesalers and retailers and then to consumers.

The supply chain broke down during the COVID shutdown, but that created job opportunities for roles to help create a more effective system. Supply chain is one of the top three fields that employers are asking UK’s business school about these days, Madison said.

“We’ve already been seeing a trend in that area, but it’s become more in demand since the pandemic,” she says.

In April, the university announced a Master of Science program in supply chain management, which began in August with 16 students, Madison says.

Employers are also seeking graduates in cybersecurity and data analytics, she says, as well as software developers and students with finance and business degrees.

Interestingly, food service is another area that is seeing high demand, even as restaurants have scaled back. Madison says 3,700 such jobs have been posted on Burning Glass for the Greater Cincinnati region so far in 2020.

“Restaurants are having to pivot their services, so they may be looking for new expertise on how to do that,” Madison said.

The recovery will be slow and uneven, Harrah says. The economy fell off a cliff in March. Some sectors will recover sharply, while others lag.

“Through 2021, we will have high unemployment,” she says. “At the same time, you’re going to have stories about economic growth and rebounds in jobs. And they’re both going to be true.”

This is the third in a three-part series on how COVID-19 will change the Cincinnati Region with expanding supply chain innovation, retooling jobs, and small business adaptation. It is made possible with funding from Google's Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist, Cincinnati native and father of three. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.
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