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Employment gains spurred by pandemic recovery, projected 2021–31

| January 2023

The COVID-19 recession, which was from February to April 2020, contributed to a loss of more than 9 million jobs that year. What should we expect over the coming decade?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is projected to reach 166.5 million by 2031. That level not only surpasses pandemic-related losses but adds about 3.7 million jobs to the 2019 prerecession level of 162.8 million. (See chart.)

The 2020 recession was unique in both length and severity. In the ensuing economic recovery, about half of the jobs lost from 2019 to 2020 were regained by 2021. But 2021 employment (158.1 million) was still more than 4.6 million jobs below the 2019 prerecession level. BLS expects an employment increase of about 8.3 million over the 2021–31 projections decade, due to both job growth and cyclical recovery from the lower 2021 level. (Note: Data may not sum to totals because of rounding.)

COVID-19 affected employment in some industries more heavily than in others. An example is the leisure and hospitality sector, which was particularly impacted by the pandemic shutdowns. Many of the more than 1.9 million jobs expected to be added to that sector by 2031 are the result of customers returning to their prepandemic habits, such as eating in restaurants, staying at hotels, and engaging in various entertainment and recreation activities.

The Employment Projections (EP) program develops information about the labor market for the nation as a whole for 10 years into the future. To learn more, visit the BLS Employment Projections webpage.

Emily Rolen is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS.

Suggested citation:

Emily Rolen, "Employment gains spurred by pandemic recovery, projected 2021–31," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2023.

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