ERICA GROSHEN: I'm Erica Groshen. And I'm a member of the senior extension faculty here at Cornell ILR School. I'm a labor economist by profession. I've spent most of my career in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. But after that, I became commissioner of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for four years. And since then, I've been affiliated with Cornell.
What kind of changes are we going to see in the labor market? I think that there's at least two ways we can break that up. One is that we are going to have some changes in the terms and conditions of work that have come out of the learning we've done and just-- and risk management that results from this-- from the COVID pandemic.
So what are things like that? Well, work from home. It's pretty clear that most employers will want for contingency purposes to be able to function as well as possible with workers who are confined to their home in the future. So that I think is going to be more important. I think coverage of sick days. We now realize that there's a societal interest in having more coverage of workers, more paid leave time for sick days.
I think we will also be searching for more avenues for worker voice. We have had a big decline in worker representation by unions. We created no substitutes for that in terms of giving workers voice within their employers. And that would probably be more important. And then employers will also be probably thinking more and more about automation and how that can be a form of contingency going forward.
The other big change that we're likely to see are some changes in the industries and occupations where the jobs will be created when we come back. And those will be things like more jobs in inventory management. Just in time inventories are probably more risky than we realized in the past. And so there will be more attention to inventory management of a different sort.
We'll probably get more domestic manufacturing as employers, companies, may decide that they have to have more contingency planning, more diversification in their supplier relationships, more remote conductivity, more industries associated with connecting people to-- electronically to receive services for Zoom kinds of things, et cetera.
Medical research capacity is going to be more important, infrastructure of various sorts to support this, and probably attention to other major problems our society faces, such as climate change. A lot of those will depend on policy directions going forward. But I suspect there will be more focus on those.
Education is likely to change with more online provision as the institutions have gotten more used to doing that and figure it out what works and what doesn't. And travel is likely to change dramatically, perhaps less business travel certainly in the medium short term and possibly in the longer run as well. It's likely to change the face of pleasure traveling.
One more thing is nursing homes, assisted living facilities-- there will probably be big changes in how those are operated and how families choose to use them as well.
So that's the nature of that. We are going to have this huge contraction, then a recovery of indeterminate length. Probably the longer the contraction, the longer the recovery, and then as we always do in the aftermath of a recession, some fundamental structural changes in the kinds of jobs that we have going forward.
So this is a big event in our labor market, not an easy one for so many families, both because of the risk and the reality of infections and deaths, and also because of the dramatic impact this is going to have on people's experience in the job markets and in the jobs of the future.
One of the other things that this experience really demonstrates is the importance of having gold standard official statistics on which policymakers and families and businesses can base their really important or consequential decisions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been underfunded for a long time and particularly has had essentially a flat nominal budget for the past decade. And that has severely limited the amount of information that the agency is able to produce.
So I hope that one outcome of this experience will be that policymakers can decide to invest in better statistics going forward. And that's what will help us all recover better from this recession and future crises, whatever they may be.
Let me close by saying I wish you and your family all the best as you weather these very difficult, these challenging times, both in terms of your health and in terms of the economy and the job market going forward. Thank you.
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Cornell University labor economist Erica Groshen says when the pandemic subsides, more jobs will emerge in inventory management, domestic manufacturing, remote connectivity and medical research – and in the infrastructure industries that support them.
The pandemic underscores the need for gold-standard labor statistics on which policymakers can base their decisions, notes Groshen, who led the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as commissioner from 2013-17. Groshen is a senior extension faculty member at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Formerly she was vice president for research and statistics at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.