Ready or not, here come more detailed looks at what COVID-19 did to the labor market

You may or may not want to look, but we now have access to comprehensive, industry-level employment and wage data for measuring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released 2021Q1 data from its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program, which provides the most comprehensive picture available of payroll employment among publicly accessible data sets (which is why there is a considerable lag on it).

The county-level data is not seasonally adjusted, so I recommend using March 2020-March 2021 as the time period for analyzing one-year impacts of the pandemic. Monthly data is available for high-level industry sectors (e.g., Leisure and Hospitality, Manufacturing), and annual data is available for more detailed industries, down to the six-digit NAICS level for some markets.

Here are some examples from the hospitality and food service industries in Austin and Nashville:

Austin (Travis County)

Payroll employment in the leisure and hospitality sector totaled about 73,700 jobs in March 2021, down by more than 20,000 jobs (-21%) from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

For the 2020 calendar year, Austin lost about 24,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality. Workers in the industry lost about $630 million in wages (-24%). As of 2021Q1, total wages were still down by 22%, compared to 2020Q1.

For the 2020 calendar year:

Hotels – 4,222 jobs lost (-35%); $159 million in total wages lost (-36%)

Restaurants and Bars – 17,603 jobs lost (-24%); $396 million in total wages lost (-22%)

Nashville (Davidson County)

Leisure and hospitality payrolls totaled about 48,200 jobs in March 2021, down by 18,000 jobs (-27%) from a year earlier. Wages in 2021Q1 were down by nearly $200 million (-30%), compared to 2020Q1.

For the 2020 calendar year:

Hotels – 4,832 jobs lost (-40%); $178 million in total wages lost (-40%)

Restaurants and Bars – 11,300 jobs lost (-25%); $273 million in total wages lost (-25%)

Image: People wear masks as they cross Broadway in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)