The pandemic decimated the labor market at record speed

Online job posting analysis shows the extent of the pandemic’s damage, especially to women and youth

High-frequency data are critical when it comes to tracking the rapid economic destruction and disruption wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. This information has also helped confirm, nearly in real time, the unequal impact of the crisis on particular populations, especially women.

Weekly and sometimes daily snapshots of human behavior—restaurant reservations, pedestrian traffic, mobile phone data, airport checkpoint volume, retail activity, and even nighttime images of Earth from space—are now closely scrutinized. Embedded within these high-frequency data are clues that may paint a picture of the impact of the crisis on the outlook for women, young people, and minorities and possibly foretell changes for years to come. The use of real-time data for decision-making was growing rapidly even before the pandemic, mostly because of progress in digitalization and the emergence of big data. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has brought its usefulness into sharp relief.

The pandemic decimated the labor market at record speed. Official data reported on a quarterly or even monthly basis have struggled to keep pace with a wave of unemployment unseen since the Great Depression. Labor market data produced during the current crisis can paint a confusing picture of the job market, as compilers of official data have struggled to account for furlough programs and part-time jobs and have thus disseminated the data with cautions about high levels of uncertainty.

Our new study uses real-time data supplied by Indeed, one of the major providers of worldwide employment-related search engines for job listings. This gives us one-of-a-kind insight into the behavior of virtually all employers that post online job advertisements. The main advantage of Indeed’s online job posting data is that the information is close to real-time data and offers complete coverage of online job postings, whereas government survey data are limited to the employers surveyed. This real-time view of labor demand provides analytical backing for something that has become increasingly evident as the year has progressed: demand for jobs for women has fallen disproportionately more than for men, and low-skilled workers are likely to fall further behind.

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