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Bob Joyce

Sanford, Broadway and Lee County are recovering rapidly from the pandemic.

In fact, we’re doing much better than other communities. That does not mean we escaped any negative effects. Some local businesses have closed permanently. Others have lost thousands of dollars in revenue. Nationally, millions of jobs have been wiped out entirely, and according to research, are unlikely to come back. Economists warn that we are set up for a massive need for career changes and retraining in the United States.

The pandemic triggered permanent shifts in how and where people work. More people are working from home, traveling less for business, or replacing workers with robots. Plus, now that businesses have made the investment in new technology to allow for these changes, they won’t abandon the effort any time soon. All of this means workers will not be able to do the same job they did before the pandemic, even after we get everyone vaccinated.

In an article for the Washington Post, reporter Heather Long says that business consulting firm The McKinsey Institute figures 20% of business travel won’t come back and about 20% of workers could end up working from home indefinitely. These shifts mean fewer jobs at hotels, restaurants and downtown shops, in addition to ongoing automation of office support roles and some factory jobs.

“We’re recovering, but to a different economy,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in November.While retraining sounds like a smart (it is) and simple (it’s not) option, many unemployed people lack the money to take classes. Unemployment and food stamps are not sufficient to pay bills. Long reports that the stimulus legislation being debated in Congress does not include any money for retraining.So, that all sounds really bad for the economy going forward, right? Here’s the silver lining:

Some economists predict that by late 2021 and throughout 2022, the nation’s gross domestic output will be larger than it would have been if the pandemic hadn’t occurred. Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Oxford all forecast about 6.5% growth this year, which would be the best since 1984. Goldman Sachs is looking for a 7% advance.

Consumers that didn’t lose their jobs have saved during the pandemic…and they are spending their cash. Retail sales jumped 5.3% in January as shoppers splurged on cars, furniture, clothing and appliances. The U.S. has recovered 12.4 million, or about 56%, of the 22.4 million jobs wiped out last spring.According to experts, another 6 million jobs will return this year. That would still leave 4 million missing jobs. But which jobs? …and in which fields?

Nationwide, more than 100,000 restaurants have closed for good, the National Restaurant Association estimates. Studies say maybe 50% to 75% will be replaced by new food outlets in a year or two. But that means many jobs will be lost long-term. Locally, there are 1,747 available jobs listed on the NC Works website for our area of the state. Granted, many of these jobs require special skills.

For example, Pfizer has over 50 jobs available on this jobs board. Lucky for us, Central Carolina Community College has the state’s premier bio-process training program. Scholarships are available. There is a short-term certification program and a longer-term degree program.

If you know someone whose job was eliminated, or someone who wants to make a change, there simply could not be a better move.