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Blog>Jobs Reports>August 2020 United States Job Market Report

August 2020 United States Job Market Report

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Key Insights

  • A significant percentage of job seekers (42%) are looking to switch industries or job types due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 80% of job seekers with school-age kids in virtual learning situations report that this is impacting their job search, often causing them to look for work-from-home opportunities and/or more flexible schedules.
  • Although the job market remains very difficult, job seekers are more optimistic about the future than they were last month.


The U.S. job market continued its recovery in August with several encouraging signs, including a sizable drop in the unemployment rate to 8.4% and an increase in employment by 1.4 million jobs. But while the job market has made great gains since the spring, millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed. The job market landscape has changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and workers are now approaching their job searches in different ways.

Some industries have been disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of these workers have been forced to look for new work and even rethink their career choices. Due to other issues brought about by the pandemic, employed workers may also be looking to change job types or careers. In order to explore how the pandemic has affected job seekers, we surveyed thousands of job seekers — including full-time, part-time, unemployed, and furloughed workers — to ask them about their job searches, preferences, and outlooks for the future.

Switching Jobs Due to COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping effects on the job market, some industries have been disproportionately impacted. Contact-intensive sectors — meaning those that rely on face-to-face interactions — have been hit especially hard. Most workers in contact-intensive businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and hotels, don’t have the ability to telework. While many leisure and hospitality workers are seeking work opportunities in new areas, results from a recent Joblist survey show the pandemic is causing over 40% of job seekers in all types of industries to look for different types of work.


In fact, the nearly 42% of workers who responded that they are looking to switch industries or job types due to the COVID-19 pandemic are pretty evenly split across food service, retail, industrial, healthcare, and office jobs. Thus, the pandemic’s impact on industry/job type switching isn’t limited to certain industries, but is instead being felt on a broader basis. While some industries and job types do not have the risk factor that working for a contact-intensive business has, there are other reasons why job seekers are now considering career changes.

Millions of school-age children across the country have started school virtually in the past month, putting a new strain on working parents. Over 80% of Joblist survey respondents with school-age kids in remote learning report that the remote school situation is impacting their job search. About 32% of these job seekers say that they are seeking out work-from-home jobs as a result. Another 46% of these job seekers are looking for jobs with more flexible schedules (23%) or looking to change their job types/industries (23%).

What Job Seekers Care About Right Now

While the pandemic has caused many job seekers to rethink their career options and even seek out work in completely different industries, it has also affected how job seekers value work benefits. Now, seven months into the pandemic, health-related benefits are as important as ever. Results from a recent Joblist survey indicate that, similar to last month, job seekers care about having health insurance benefits and a good PTO/sick leave policy in their next jobs. And, as with last month, health insurance is the most important benefit that job seekers care about, with 44% of survey respondents saying that health insurance is “very important.” Having a good PTO/sick leave policy also ranks highly in importance with 41% of job seekers.

Although health benefits rank highly with job seekers overall, unemployed and employed job seekers rate these types of benefits differently. Among unemployed jobs seekers, 38% rated health insurance and 34% rated a good PTO/sick policy as “very important”, compared to 61% and 56% (respectively) of full-time employed job seekers. While employed job seekers can afford to be choosy about jobs and benefits, those without jobs do not have the same luxury. On the other hand, unemployed and employed job seekers rate having a reduced contact work environment similarly, with close to one-fourth of both unemployed and full-time employed job seekers saying a safe work environment is “very important.”


Future Outlook on Employment

As shown in the most recent jobs report from the BLS, August saw a number of improvements to the job market, including a gain of 1.4 million jobs and another drop in the unemployment rate to 8.4%. The unemployment rate has been steadily declining since it peaked in April at 14.7% in the middle of the economic shutdown. These improvements reflect the resumption of economic activity and continued reopening of businesses across the United States. While the job market has made steady improvements since the spring, some industries are still experiencing very high unemployment, and millions of Americans remain jobless.


According to an August Joblist survey, a majority of job seekers describe the job market as “difficult” or “somewhat difficult.” However, job seekers now have a rosier outlook for the future than they did in previous surveys. In August, 35% of job seekers predicted the market will improve in the next month, compared to 29% in July. Despite this increased optimism, job seeker uncertainty remains high with 29% of August job seekers saying that they are “not sure” whether the job market will improve in the next month.

Full-time employed job seekers unsurprisingly tend to be more optimistic about the job market than their unemployed counterparts. Just one-quarter of unemployed job seekers believe the job market will improve in the next month compared to 39% of job seekers who are full-time employed. Additionally, 18% of furloughed or unemployed job seekers believe the job market will get worse, compared to 13% of all other job seekers.


While job market conditions have been steadily improving since the spring, the majority of job seekers still think that finding a job is difficult right now, and many job seekers remain uncertain about the future. Joblist survey results show that job seekers are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic in several ways. A significant share of job seekers are looking to switch industries or job types, while those with school-age children completing remote schooling due to COVID-19 are facing additional challenges as well. Furthermore, job seekers are placing high value on health-related job benefits.

This unprecedented situation brings a great deal of uncertainty. Public health experts believe the fall may bring a second wave of COVID-19 infections. If businesses are forced to shut down again or change their operating procedures, workers will feel the impact. In the coming months, Joblist will continue studying how the pandemic is affecting job seekers and their job searches.

It’s more important than ever for every seeker to find the right job for their specific needs. At Joblist, we know every job search is different. Helping you find the right job means surfacing results tailored to your experience, industry, and job priorities. Whether you’re a recent graduate, unemployed due to COVID-19, or looking for a remote-work opportunity that will let you keep your home office, Joblist will curate personalized matches based on criteria that you define. Even better, you're not alone in the process — Joblist enables you to share the list of jobs you're interested in with your friends, family, and others in your network so that they can also participate in your job search to make it a little less stressful.


We surveyed 1,157 American job seekers about their outlook on the current job market and expectations for the future. We also surveyed an additional 1,399 American job seekers about what factors are important to them in their job search right now. Finally, we surveyed 1,153 American job seekers about how COVID-19 and remote schooling for their children were affecting the types of jobs they were looking for.

All 3,709 survey respondents were Joblist users. The surveys were conducted over the course of August 2020.

This data has not been weighted, and it comes with some limitations. All of the information in this study relies on self-reporting. With self-reporting, respondents may over- or underreport their answers and feelings to the questions provided.

Fair Use Statement

It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future will hold, but we hope this data helps paint a more vivid representation of the job market in America today. Share these findings with your readers for any noncommercial use by including a link back to this page so they have full access to our methodology and results.

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