Industries That May Struggle In 2021 (And What Workers Can Do About It)

It could be a long time before waiters serve customers in a restaurant again.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected numerous industries and has resulted in furloughs and layoffs.

Many of these industries may continue to struggle in 2021, and workers looking to break back into those industries may have some tough decisions to make.

The labor market has recovered 12 million of the 22 million jobs lost from February to April 2020, but many of the lost positions may not return anytime soon as uncertainty about the economy lingers into 2021, according to the New York Times.

Here's a look at some of the industries facing the most uncertainty in 2021, and what you should do if you work in one of these industries, or are currently looking for a job in these industries.

Struggling Industries 

Hospitality worker checks customers in at a hotel.


Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality - COVID-19 pretty much brought travel to a standstill for much of 2020, and even when restrictions were eased during the summer, the amount of travel was still down significantly. This resulted in layoffs for multiple hotel chains and airlines. Even when the COVID-19 outbreak calms, these industries still face a steep uphill battle.

Restaurants - While fast-food and delivery services continue to thrive, the traditional restaurant experience has taken a hit. Many small independent restaurants were forced to lay off their entire staffs, or close their doors permanently. Many of the restaurants that have weathered the crisis have done so with reduced staff, and with economic uncertainty continuing into 2021, it's possible more restaurants will close.

Retail - Many retail establishments had to close down a significant amount of stores in 2020, including longtime established companies like Macy's, J. C. Penney, Gap, Bed Bath and Pier 1 Imports. Online shopping was increasing before COVID-19, and it seems the pandemic has only sped up that growth.

Other industries that were impacted by COVID-19 and may be slow to recover include movie theaters, transportation, and automaking.

What should you do if you're looking for work in one of these industries?

Utilize Your Network

Young professional does some online networking as part of his job search efforts.


While these industries may be slow to recover, that doesn't mean there won't be any jobs available. There will just be fewer jobs available, and they'll be trickier to find.

When things are going well and companies need to fill a lot of positions, they'll post positions on multiple online platforms, like Glassdoor and Indeed. However, in tougher times when they only need to fill a few positions here and there, filling these positions often comes down to word of mouth or referral.

This is sometimes called the hidden job market, and it requires a job seeker to be extremely proactive with their job search.

If you're really close with individuals in your network, you may consistently hear about new opportunities. But mostly it's on you to create an interview bucket list of 10-20 companies that you want to work for, keep track of them, network your way on their radar through current connections, or by reaching out to them yourself.

This is the way everyone should conduct their job search, but it certainly takes on an added importance when you're job hunting in an industry where there are fewer jobs available.

Expand Your Horizons

If you're in an industry that was impacted by COVID-19, you don't have to give it up, but you will have to work hard to remain in that industry, and this includes learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities.

There will be some companies that will have to do more with less as they continue to recover. This means that while some job seekers may be able to return to these impacted industries, they won't return to the same jobs.

No matter what particular impacted industry you're in, all professionals should ask themselves, "What can I do to add more value to the company?"

This could include upskilling, taking on additional responsibilities, or training yourself to do a completely different job altogether.

In order to remain a viable employee in a struggling industry, professionals must understand that there's no job too big, or to small!

Make A Career Change

Business professional research job openings.


For some professionals, the disruption to their jobs caused by COVID-19 is the push they needed to make a career change.

If you're going to change careers, it's important to do so for the right reasons. The fact that your industry was impacted by COVID-19 is only a piece of the puzzle. A career change can't be motivated by desperation alone; there needs to be a real desire to do something else.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to leave a struggling industry, but you need to make sure that the new career you're aiming for is something that you want to do.

Take a look and see what some of the most in-demand jobs are and ask yourself, "Do I have a legitimate interest in working in this industry?" and "Do I feel a personal connection to this industry?"

If you're able to identify a new industry that you want to pursue, then you must put a plan together. This plan should include identifying your transferable skills, identifying what skills you need to acquire, and networking. Some in-demand industries, such as healthcare or trade careers, may even offer apprenticeship programs to help job seekers gain experience.

Employers will sometimes take a chance on job seekers with little professional experience if they have the desire and aptitude.

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