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How the Pandemic Is Changing the North American Labour Force

Summer has three years of experience in human resources with one full year of experience specializing in recruitment and selection.


As the world is changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, an incredible change is happening to the North American labour force. Did you ever think you would see the fall of brick and mortar stores? Or realize the extreme importance of factories that are able to prepare and package sanitary equipment?

It's been a dramatic change for most businesses, the retail industry especially. An article posted on Forbes this past August reports, "In the United States alone over 12,000 stores will be closing this year - 6,300 have already announced." A surprising statistic to say the least.

It's clear the needs of our society have changed, but what does that mean for those choosing new career paths? Or those who are out of work and forced to find something else? The future may seem uncertain.

As the pandemic continues to spread, thousands of North Americans are forced to work from home. With this drastic and quick change, there has never been a more crucial time for financial services and schools to have safer options like online banking and e-learning. As some industries become increasingly in demand, some industries and organizations are facing what could be their last days.

Let’s look first at some occupations and industries that I believe will have to change their tactics or succumb to being phased out.

Occupations at Risk Post-COVID

  • Prepress Technicians/Print Circulation Marketers. There is no question about it, print is in heavy decline. The need for online books and resources has increased significantly in the last 4 months. Ilona Stankeova who is a senior research director for IDC Europe explains "The dramatic and sudden transition to work from home in many of the world's largest economies had a direct impact on office device print volumes. The decline of office print volume will have a big impact on total spending in the office print market. Hardcopy peripherals vendors will be required to make bold changes to their strategies based on future workstyles in the next normal following the pandemic,"
  • Travel agents. With most borders closed (or at least limited) and most families financially impacted by the pandemic, it’s not likely people will be planning extravagant vacations anytime soon. Beyond that, in-person travel agents are facing tough competition from online travel agencies and services. As a result, we already see more than 10 travel agencies fold this year alone.
  • Cashiers. As the need for social distancing continues, cash handling remains on a steady decline. Businesses are taking percaution by having more self-checkouts and automated cash systems installed. Walmart, for example, will run a pilot program for a fully automated payment system. The PYMNTS website reports "Walmart’s interest in self-checkout predates the coronavirus and mirrors a growing push by supermarket chains to augment, if not replace, cashiers with self-checkout stations." The article goes on to say that if the pilot program is successful they may be changing all locations to cashier-less stores.
  • Housekeepers. Although the need to clean your house has never been more important, the decline in housekeeping and maid services is a direct result of mandatory social distancing. Cleaning companies like Queen of Clean Windsor, based out of Ontario, Canada, have had to adapt to the changing times and be extra cautious for the safety of both their employees and clients. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) reports Queen of Clean Windsor was forced to lay off 13 out of 16 staff members when the Ontario Government declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. It was later reported that "as a result of the loss of income from the residential cleaning side of their business, they've also lost between 35 percent and 40 percent of their revenue."
  • Middle Management. As a result of the pandemic, many large companies have needed to cut back on costs. Staffing is by far the most expensive cost and reducing staffing levels will allow businesses to automate what they can in order to survive. “I don’t see us going back to the staffing levels we were at prior to COVID,” says Brian Pokorny, the director of information technologies for Otsego County in New York State, who has cut 10% of his staff because of pandemic-related budget issues. “So we need to look at things like AI to streamline government services and make us more efficient.”

Current job trends throughout North America fall mainly in the tech and medical categories. Occupations to do with data tech, banking tech and online learning are up for grabs as these industries have seen significant growth with the need for more online platforms and resources. Now let's look at occupations I believe will be in high demand as the world changes and adapts to the needs of its people.

Occupations That Will Be in High Demand Post-COVID

  • Medical Professionals. The need for front line medical professionals is at an all-time high. Spanning from medical receptionists to nurses, to doctors and even specialists that study disease prevention. An editorial posted recently from Sciences Advances called Medical education in the time of COVID-19 explains “What seems certain is that a return to a typical pre–COVID-19 teaching platform is unlikely and that many creative changes are here to stay. Large-scale adoption of online education during the pandemic shows that it is possible to achieve a number of teaching objectives virtually.” The authors go on to say “As we reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to the medical curriculum that ensure more focus on infection control, pandemic modelling, population and public health, telemedicine, and health equity are desirable.”
  • Artificial Intelligence Specialist. These specialists work in cognitive stimulation and make it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. As per the Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS), this work encompasses specific knowledge like machine learning and engineering but will become increasingly needed as AI takes the world by storm. Top industries include computer software, I.T., higher education and research and development.
  • Site Reliability Engineer. As people become drawn to online resources, site reliability engineers are going to be in high demand. They are responsible for ensuring that website development and operational processes are running smoothly, as well as fixing issues if things ever go awry. Top industries hiring this talent include computer software, internet, information technology & services, banking and financial services.
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  • Data Scientist. Data scientists are needed more than ever with the changing landscape of our society. As the pandemic becomes a global problem, mass amounts of data need to be recorded, analyzed, evaluated and filed. These scientists are analytical data experts who have the technical skills to solve complex problems. The growth can likely be attributed to the evolution of jobs that have previously existed, like a statistician. Top industries include but are not limited to information technology and services, research and development, and computer software.
  • Customer Success Specialist. This position is created within a company to ensure a seamless and personal onboarding experience for new customers and clients. As the pandemic forces businesses to move toward convenient online platforms, relationships with many customers and clients will look different. Technology services now require more hands-on support so it's crucial that organizations learn and understand how to nurture each customer relationship. Top industries here include computer software, technology services, marketing and advertising.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the face of the North American labour force. But as things can change at the drop of a hat, the question remains: Will the current landscape of the North American labour force adapt and survive?


Canadian Occupational Projection System. (Projections from 2019-2028) Population and Labour Force Data. Government of Canada. Retrieved September 11, 2020.

Conca, James. (August 21, 2020) The Coronavirus Accelerates Online’s Destruction Of Brick & Mortar Shopping. Forbes. Retrieved September 20, 2020.

Herrington, Alex. (No Date Available) What is a Data Scientist? Who they are, what they do and why you want to be one. Sas Analytical Software & Solutions. Retrieved September 19, 2020.

Unknown Author (June 15, 2020) Walmart Tests Store Without Cashiers As COVID-19 Accelerates Change. Retrieved September 21, 2020.

Unknown Author (June 20, 2020) IDC Forecasts a Sharp Decline in Page Volumes Printed on Office and Home Devices in 2020 as COVID-19 Affects the Document Printing Market. BusinessWire. Retrieved September 20, 2020.

Wayne B. Diane, Green, Marianne and Neilson G. Eric. (July 29, 2020) Medical education in the time of COVID-19. ScienceAdvances. Retrieved September 19, 2020.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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