The chief economist at the American Dental Association predicted that the coronavirus pandemic would create “…an elevator ride down and an escalator ride up…”
He could be right. But there is more.
Pandemic Job Vulnerability
As you might expect, the coronavirus pandemic sliced dental visits down to 7 percent of their normal level. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association expressed a no-elective-care guidance. And, with a protective gear shortage further limiting them, it made sense that 45 percent of all dentists had laid off their whole staff by mid-April. Only 13 percent remained fully open.
The drop was considerable during April. Although dental jobs represent just 6 percent of the industry, they occupied a 35 percent share of the health care jobs lost. But then, when they surged back, the recovery was also out of proportion:
With 77 percent of all dental practices fully open by the first week in June, we did see a (partially full) elevator ride upward. But dentists are still saying that people might not want to return because of the close contact, the expense, and the cleaning that they can postpone:
For University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson, the dental business is a good barometer for judging how far we’ve recovered from pandemic lows. As an industry with no substitutes, in normal times, it is pretty stable. Now, with with 289,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic, it still has a long way to go.
Our Bottom Line: Pandemic Labor Market
Moving to the bigger picture, let’s look at other jobs that were hit hard by the pandemic. In a recent NY Fed blog, economists used social distancing to determine an occupation’s pandemic job vulnerability. When a job could be done at home, social distancing was less of a concern. However, for the occupations that made people go to the workplace, proximity increased their economic vulnerability.
These Fed researchers concluded that low-work-from-home and high-physical-proximity jobs would be more economically vulnerable. They could be the last occupations to benefit from a recovery:
This list is also interesting. The jobs that have the greatest chance of suffering the most have low numbers in the third and fourth columns:
So yes, dentists have low-work-from-home/high-physical-proximity jobs. But we also need them.