The Effects of the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic on Service Workers in New England
|Low-income workers of color will face disproportionate challenges due to the impacts of the coronavirus.|
|In 2018, about 1-in-5 New England jobs were in service industries that will be affected by COVID-19. Many workers are now being laid off as restaurants and stores scale back or close. The loss of income for these workers can be devastating.|
|One-third of retail workers in New England hold a job classified as “essential.” Many service workers in essential jobs are being asked to come to work, increasing their risk of infection.|
|Service workers disproportionately live in low-income families (36 percent), and 15 percent live in households that were receiving SNAP in 2018.|
|Within service occupations, non-Hispanic white workers earn more than all other racial/ethnic groups. In retail jobs, non-Hispanic black workers make $10,000 less per year than non-Hispanic whites.|
As New England states scramble to adapt to the spread of the COVID-19, it is becoming increasingly clear that both the health and economic implications will affect certain industries and demographic groups disproportionately. Service workers in particular are at high risk of either job loss or being called upon to work under very difficult and sometimes risky conditions. Massive numbers of service workers are being laid off as restaurants and stores scale down and close. The loss of income for these workers and their families can be devastating. At the same time, service workers in jobs categorized as essential are asked to come to work and face possible exposure.
This brief analyzes data from the American Community Survey to describe which New England service workers will be most impacted by the effects of the coronavirus: those working in food service, cleaning and building maintenance, retail and hospitality, and warehouse jobs. We find that about one in five New England workers has one of these jobs. Workers in these occupations are more likely to be Hispanic, and they experience poverty at higher rates than New England workers generally. Within these jobs, women and people of color earn significantly less than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. In other words, the challenges posed by the pandemic exacerbate existing and long-standing inequalities. Policy responses should support this population in order to promote equitable recovery.