Efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 are having mixed effects on jobs in industries that produce, distribute, and sell information products.
There are six Information industries which employed about 2.8 million people in February before stay home orders began. Almost 9 percent of Information jobs were lost by April, according to preliminary labor department statistics.
Jobs were lost in five of the six industries. The Motion Picture and Sound Recording industry was hardest hit, almost half of its 456,000 jobs were gone by April. Four other industries suffered job losses ranging from almost 5 percent in Broadcasting to less than 1 percent in Telecommunications.
The sixth industry, Other Information Services, increased employment by 1 percent. Other Information includes search engines and digital publishers and broadcasters.
This post describes changes in employment for all six Information industries from May 2019-April 2020. I also report employment in selected occupations as of May, 2019.
The first chart shows aggregate employment in all six industries.
The chart (above) shows monthly changes in Information sector employment. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is seasonally adjusted to remove the influence of predictable influences such as seasonal changes or holiday hiring. This provides a more accurate estimate of changes caused by factors like the pandemic.
March and April employment statistics are preliminary and subject to revision.
The six Information industries employed more than 2.8 million people from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industries lost an estimated 258,000 jobs in March and April, a decline of 8.9 percent.
Information is part of the private, nonfarm business sector which employed 129.7 million people in February 2020. The sector lost an estimated 20.4 million jobs in March and April, a decline of 15.7 percent.
Subsequent charts report employment in each of the six industries from the least affected to the most affected.
The second chart (above) shows Other Information Services, which includes search engines, internet-only publishing and broadcasting, and web sites that store and provide information.
Employment increased by 19,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. Other Information employed 354,400 people in February.
The industry added an estimated 3,500 jobs by April, an increase of about 1 percent.
The table (below) reports 2019 employment in selected occupations. This is the most recent available data.
Employment in selected occupations is a rough indicator of the relative importance of specific jobs. However, these jobs may not be evenly distributed across the entire industry.
About 6 percent of Other Information employees were in Media occupations in 2019. Half were editors, and less than 2 percent were reporters
Editors may be employed at digital firms that do and do not produce original content. Reporters, however, are concentrated at a small number of digital news publications.
Computer jobs (not shown) are also reported for each industry to provide a comparison. Computer jobs and technology can be used to produce, distribute, and sell media and other information products.
Computer jobs were 24.2 percent of employment in Other Information in 2019.
The third chart (above) shows Telecommunications, which includes distribution and services for telephones, cable and satellite broadcasting, and internet access.
Employment in Telecommunications decreased by about 16,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industry employed about 700,000 people in February.
An estimated 5,900 jobs were lost by April, a decrease of 0.84 percent.
Media occupations were less than 1 percent of this industry in 2019. The industry does not produce original media content, so this is expected.
Computer jobs (not shown) accounted for 16.3 percent of employment in Telecommunications.
The fourth chart (above) shows Publishing, which includes newspapers, magazines, books, directories and software publishing.
Employment in Publishing increased by about 12,000 people from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industry had 770,000 jobs in February.
An estimated 15,400 jobs were lost by April, a decrease of 2 percent.
Media workers were about 10 percent of all Publishing jobs in 2019. Editors were almost 6 percent of industry jobs, probably because editors were employed by magazines and book publishers in addition to newspapers. Reporters were 2.5 percent of the industry, jobs that were concentrated in newspapers.
Computer occupations (not shown) accounted for 31 percent of Publishing jobs in 2019. Computer jobs may be more widely distributed than media jobs in this industry.
The fifth chart (above) shows Data Processing, which includes hosting and providing data processing services.
Employment increased by about 13,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. Data Processing employed about 349,000 people in February.
An estimated 7,100 jobs were lost by April, a decrease of 2 percent.
Less than 1 percent of jobs were in Media occupations in 2019. This is another industry that does not produce media content.
Computer jobs (not shown) accounted for 40 percent of Data Processing employment. This is expected because the industry is defined by computing.
The sixth chart (above) shows Broadcasting, an industry that creates, acquires and distributes content via radio, television, cable and other subscription services.
Broadcasting employment decreased by about 4,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industry employed 263,300 people in February.
Broadcasting lost an estimated 13,000 jobs by April, a decrease of 4.9 percent.
About 21 percent of Broadcasting jobs were in Media occupations in 2019. Broadcast Announcers and Disc Jockeys were 9 percent of all jobs, probably because they were employed by television and radio stations.
Reporters were about 6 percent of all jobs and camera operators and editors were 3.6 percent of jobs, possibly because these were concentrated at television stations.
Computer jobs (not shown) accounted for just 4.8 percent of Broadcasting employment in 2019.
The seventh chart (above) shows Motion Picture and Sound Recording, which includes the production and distribution of motion pictures and sound recordings.
Employment was steady at about 450,000 people until February 2020.
The industry lost an estimated 220,500 jobs by April, or about 48 percent.
This unusually large decline may result from collaboration between many people in the same place when making a movie or a recording. Covid-19 makes physical proximity dangerous.
Only 3.5 percent of Motion Picture and Sound jobs were in Media occupations in 2019.
Camera operators and editors were listed as a major category, accounting for another 3.5 percent of all jobs. There were more than twice as many camera operators and editors, 27,560, as in Broadcasting with 9,690.
Computer jobs (not shown) were just 1.5 percent of employment in Motion Pictures and Sound.
Employment changes during the pandemic are probably influenced by whether employees can keep working, how much demand and revenue still exists for the industry's products, and long-term employment trends.
The pandemic has slowed but not ended job increases for Other Information Services. This may be because employees can work from home. This may also result from increased demand for internet services when millions of people were ordered to stay home as much as possible. Online advertising is generally cheaper than ads in Broadcasting or Publishing, so increased demand also means the industry can continue selling ads.
The smallest adverse effects on employment so far appear to be for industries where technology may allow people to work from home, such as Data Processing and Telecommunications. However, both industries employ thousands of sales agents who may be unable to work. Telecommunications demand for cell phone services may also be affected if customers are losing their jobs and incomes.
Publishing may also be suffering fewer adverse effects if book and magazine editors and computer employees can work from home. Employment in Publishing as a whole was increasing before the pandemic.
Newspaper employment was decreasing before the pandemic because advertising revenue has shifted to Other Information companies. Many newspapers are using furloughs to avoid layoffs, which may temporarily moderate job losses from the pandemic.
The largest adverse effects appear to be industries where workers must gather in the same location to produce news and entertainment products. Broadcasting is also losing advertising revenue because large advertisers are reducing spending as consumers buy fewer advertised products.
Most dramatically, Motion Picture and Sound Recording jobs vanished as the production of movies and television programs shut down.