Rob Siminoski has been in the theater, in one way or another, since he graduated from college. But after 10 years at the Universal Studios theme park in California, he is only No. 13 on the stage-managing roster. Even if the park, closed since March, reopens some attractions — the WaterWorld stunt show, say, or the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle — he is unlikely to be among the first to get the call.

His luck is that his union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, offers an apprenticeship program for on-set movie electricians. It takes five years, and Mr. Siminoski, 33, is going to have to brush up his high school algebra to get in. Still, it offers a good balance of risk and reward.

“Everyone needs electricity,” he said. “You pull down six figures.”

The nation’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will hinge to some extent on how quickly show managers can become electricians, whether taxi drivers can become plumbers, and how many cooks can manage software for a bank.

The labor market has recovered 12 million of the 22 million jobs lost from February to April. But many positions may not return any time soon, even when a vaccine is deployed.

This is likely to prove especially problematic for millions of low-paid workers in service industries like retailing, hospitality, building maintenance and transportation, which may be permanently impaired or fundamentally transformed. What will janitors do if fewer people work in offices? What will waiters do if the urban restaurant ecosystem never recovers its density?

Their prognosis is bleak. Marcela Escobari, an economist at the Brookings Institution, warns that even if the economy adds jobs as the coronavirus risk fades, “the rebound won’t help the people that have been hurt the most.”

Looking back over 16 years of data, Ms. Escobari finds that workers in the occupations most heavily hit since the spring will have a difficult time reinventing themselves. Taxi drivers, dancers and front-desk clerks have poor track records moving to jobs as, say, registered nurses, pipe layers or instrumentation technicians.

“Many of today’s unemployed workers may find it harder than in the past to find new jobs and advance through the labor market,” Ms. Escobari wrote.

CIRCLES ARE SIZED BY SHARE OF TOTAL JOBS

Decline in jobs

from the first

through the

third quarter

of 2020

0

%

Accounting clerks

Retail sales

workers

General managers

–5

Nursing and

home health aides

Computer

systems analysts

Office clerks

–10

Primary school

teachers

Stock movers

–15

Mail carriers

–20

Food prep workers

Preschool teachers

–25

Dishwashers

–30

–35

Waiters and waitresses

0%

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

Share of workers who transition

into occupations that are growing

Decline in jobs

from the first

through the third

quarter of 2020

Share of workers

who transition

into occupations

that are growing

Job

Taxi Drivers

Waiters and Waitresses

Hosts and Hostesses

Bartenders

Childcare Workers

Production Clerks

Dishwashers

Preschool Teachers

Machinists

Insurance Agents

Teacher Assistants

Food Prep Workers

House Cleaners

Special Ed. Teachers

Practical and Voc. Nurses

Electricians

Education Administrators

Goods Buyers

Other Service Sales Rep.

Mail Carriers

Mechanic Supervisors

Stock Movers

Packaging Operators

Administrative Assistants

Building Cleaners

–55

–35

–34

–28

–28

–28

–27

–24

–22

–21

–20

–20

–18

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