Coronavirus is officially a pandemic — and job experts say that news may spell trouble for some U.S. workers more than others.Major cultural and sporting events across the country have been cancelled. Broadway theaters wend dark, starting at 5 p.m. Thursday. Producers said they hoped to resume shows on April 13, according to a statement from The Broadway League, an organization of theater owners and producers. “Declining consumer confidence, potentially severe retail-traffic declines, and temporary store closures are evolving risk factors that depend on uncertain variables like the geographic spread of the virus and the timing of containment/eradication solutions,” analysts at Cowen, an investment bank and financial-services company. wrote in a note this month.
As the government continues to raise awareness about the virus, some employers may be reluctant to let their staff go just yet. One reason: It’s expensive to retrain and rehire.
President Donald Trump issued a travel restriction from 26 European nations to the U.S. on Wednesday. Trump said the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom, and there would be exemptions for “Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”
Prior to Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspended travel to China and Iran. It recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to South Korea and Italy as well as Japan for adults who may have underlying respiratory illnesses.
Consumer-facing companies such as the hospitality and retail industries will be the first hit if the novel coronavirus spreads across the U.S. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, announced that gatherings with more than 500 people will temporarily be banned in New York state. New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be postponed for the first time in its 258-year history.
The National Basketball League said it will suspend the regular season indefinitely. Major League Baseball canceled the remainder spring training, and the National Hockey League said it’s suspending the 2019-20 season, effective immediately.
But as the government continues to introduce measures to slow the spread of the virus and promote the best ways to guard against it, some employers may be reluctant to let their staff go just yet. One reason: It’s expensive to retrain and rehire. With unemployment at a 50-year low, the underlying economy remains relatively strong, economists say.
The manufacturing and construction industries will be more likely to hold off on making any big decisions on layoffs, said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, a New York-based economic research company. But the same may not carry over for people working in the food, hospitality and transportation sector, she said.
Manufacturing and construction may wait to make decisions on layoffs “In construction and manufacturing, you can’t just hire someone with no experience,” she said, “especially if they expect a rebound.” Employers “will be hesitant to lay off workers” to cut costs, Farooqi said. They will instead be betting on people taking preventative measures in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2.
Some 7.6 million Americans work in the construction sector and earn an average hourly wage of $31.35, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from February’s jobs report; 12.8 million Americans work in the manufacturing sector, earning $28.20 an hour on average. (That’s slightly above the national average hourly wage of $27.69.)
More about the latest jobs report: U.S. economy adds strong 273,000 jobs in February, but coronavirus looms as threat to hiring
Supply-chain disruptions due to the coronavirus are likely to increase the cost of business for manufacturing and construction companies, said Elise Gould, an economist from the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think-tank based in Washington, D.C. Companies like Hasbro Inc.
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