Covid-19 wiped out millions of jobs. But the vaccination effort is bringing jobs back — and some of them for good.
With millions of Americans expected to be fully vaccinated by the summer, pharmacies and medical clinics have been on hiring sprees for what people may have thought of as temporary jobs. But some companies appear to be treating these thousands of newly created jobs as permanent positions — a promising sign for the roughly 10 million unemployed workers in the country.
Newly released data from the job search engine ZipRecruiter found that the number of jobs that include the term “vaccine” or “vaccination” grew sixfold since the same time last year, amounting to a total of 50,000 open positions. These newly posted job titles include licensed practical nurses, medical assistants, lab technicians, pharmacists and truck drivers. It also found hundreds of job postings for vaccine clinic clerks and managers and program coordinators. About 90 percent of these jobs are full time, with about half of the jobs advertised as temporary or contractor positions, ZipRecruiter found.
“It’s not clear this is just a temporary, ‘mission to the moon’ type situation where you have this huge mobilization and then it’s over,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist with ZipRecruiter who studied this data. “There are signs that immunity to Covid may not last forever and some of these programs may be longer lasting than many of us think.”
These new job postings follow a hiring spree in recent months by companies trying to fill vaccine-distribution-related jobs, particularly major pharmacy chains like CVS Health, Walgreens and Rite Aid. CVS Health said last fall it planned to fill 15,000 new vaccine-related positions. Walgreens has targeted 25,000 new hires dedicated to the vaccine rollout. These latest figures by ZipRecruiter also include the more than 2,000 pharmacy jobs Rite Aid is currently hiring for as well as the 1,000 health care workers being hired by grocery chain Kroger.
The spike in hiring across the health care sector may accelerate job recovery in what was one of the fastest-growing industries before the pandemic, said Brian Rose, a senior economist with UBS Financial Services. Over the last year, the health care industry has lost roughly 900,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, specifically in nursing care facilities, where workers found it safer and more profitable to stay home, and hospitals, largely due to the drop in elective surgeries.
It is promising that companies are hiring workers for jobs to vaccinate people against the coronavirus, Rose said. But while the number of open positions is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to bringing the country back to pre-pandemic employment levels, it’s a sign the economy is on track.
“This is good news in the sense that [companies] are hiring because they expect to be administering a lot of doses, and that is really key to get the economy going — to get the vaccine in people’s arms,” he said. “You can’t get a recovery until the pandemic is under control.”
Economists are finding that while these newly created vaccine distribution jobs won’t turn the economy around entirely, the results of their work could have an even greater economic impact. Gus Faucher, chief economist of the PNC Financial Services Group, estimated the job market won’t fully recover until the third quarter of 2022.
“For the longer run, the new vaccine-related jobs won’t make a difference in the overall economy,” he said. “What’s more important is we’re getting people vaccinated, which means they can go out and work and spend.”
But there are still plenty of other hopeful signs. Last Wednesday, the Federal Reserve predicted that gross domestic product will grow to 6.5 percent in 2021, up from its 4.2 percent prediction in its December meeting, with 70 percent of that coming from consumer spending. Bloomberg Economics estimated that even before the latest stimulus payments went out, consumers had saved $1.7 trillion they are waiting to spend.
Leticia Miranda is a business reporter for NBC News.