U.S. Travel: Coronavirus to Cause 5.9 Million Travel-Related Job Losses Before May

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Photo by JONGHO SHIN/iStock

Revised projections by the U.S. Travel Association show a worsening impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the U.S. economy. In the most recent study, a loss of 5.9 million total jobs (including 4.7 million travel-related jobs) are expected by the end of April due to declining travel. Previously, projections showed a loss of 4.6 million jobs by the end of the year—before pushing that number up to the end of April.

These indicate that the economic damage from the public health crisis is accelerating.

"The coronavirus crisis is hitting the travel economy hard, and it's also hitting fast," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in an official release. "These new figures underscore the extreme urgency of financial relief for travel businesses—83 percent of which are small businesses—so they can keep paying their employees. Not only are workers suffering right now, but if employers are forced to close their doors, it is unknown when or if those jobs will ever come back."

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U.S. Travel is urging the inclusion of numerous relief measures for travel businesses in the "Phase III" coronavirus package being negotiated in Congress, including: 

  • Access to more significant small business loans and ensuring immediate access to retain employees and cover basic costs during the shutdown
  • A Workforce Stabilization Fund to help medium and large travel businesses retain their workers and remain solvent
  • Tax relief to help mitigate economic losses

A 78 percent drop in travel industry revenue is predicted over the next two months and continued, direct travel industry losses over the rest of the year are expected to reach $400 billion. These losses will result in a cumulative GDP impact of $502 billion in 2020, which is enough to put the U.S. economy into a protracted recession that is likely to last at least two quarters with the lowest point in the second quarter of 2020. The study notes that gradually lessening declines are expected in the summer as travel restrictions are loosened; however, losses will continue through the rest of the year.

Other key findings in the latest analysis: 

  • The loss in travel-related jobs alone will more than double the U.S. unemployment rate from 3.5 percent to 7.1 percent before May; nearly 94,000 jobs in the “travel planning” sector could be lost
  • The expected loss of $910 billion in travel-related economic output in 2020 would be seven times the impact of 9/11
  • The predicted slowdown in the travel sector alone will push the U.S. economy into a protracted recession

Travel supports 15.8 million American jobs in total—employment for one out of every 10 Americans. 

"The health crisis deserves the government's full attention, but the economic crisis will be worse and longer without aggressive action to confront it right now," Dow said. "Businesses can't keep their lights on if they don't have any customers, and they don't have any customers because of the actions that are necessary to stem the spread of coronavirus. The resulting closures will take the greatest toll on the frontline employees who can least afford to lose their jobs—wait staff, housekeepers, concession workers, etc. Robust intervention by the federal government is the only avenue to make sure those outcomes are minimized."

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