Layoffs because of the global coronavirus crisis have already begun in states across the U.S.
Drivers at the Port of Los Angeles, convention workers in Las Vegas, festival staff in Austin, Texas, and hospitality employees in Seattle are among those who have already lost their jobs amid a tanking U.S. economy and plummeting consumer demand.
Experts have warned that job losses in the U.S. — particularly in the leisure, hospitality, retail, and food and beverage industries — may become more widespread if the crisis continues to worsen.
“We will definitely see an effect on jobs from the coronavirus, and it could be pretty large in leisure and hospitality,” Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, told The Washington Post.
Pollak said she’d already heard “many reports of employers canceling staff everywhere.” The only industry that hasn’t such reductions so far is health care, she noted.
According to the Post, at least 145 drivers have been laid off from the Port of Los Angeles, the country’s busiest port, following a slew of ship cancellations ― particularly from China, where the virus originated.
Coronavirus-related financial troubles also prompted a stage-lighting company in Orlando, Florida, to lay off 100 of its 500 workers nationwide, the Post reported. Dozens of employees for the South by Southwest festival also lost their jobs after the event was canceled over coronavirus fears.
A Las Vegas woman told KLAS-TV this week that she and several coworkers were laid off from a local trade show company following the cancellations of many large events and conventions in the city.
While U.S. airlines have yet to announce any layoffs, some have already instituted cost-cutting measures. Delta said Tuesday that it had put a freeze on hiring and was slashing flight capacities. American Airlines said it was also cutting flights and would delay trainings for new pilots and flight attendants.
U.S. stocks took a nosedive on Wednesday following the World Health Organization’s decision to declare COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, a pandemic.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 1,465 points, or 5.9%, bringing an abrupt end to the longest-ever bull market for U.S. stocks. The plunge pushed the Dow into bear market territory for the first time in 11 years. A bear market marks a 20% fall in stocks from their high.
Peter Tuchman, a veteran floor trader on the New York Stock Exchange, compared the grim atmosphere among traders on Wednesday to that in the days after Sept. 11.
“We’re groomed to deal with adrenaline, anxiety, bear markets and bull markets,” Tuchman told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t get emotional about money. But when health and welfare is involved and people’s lives are involved, that sort of eats away at our spirits.”
“It’s kind of a 9/11 feeling, rather than a financial crisis feeling,” he added. “You really wonder, what’s tomorrow going to bring?”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said HMSHost and a shuttle service provider in Seattle were laying off staff due to the coronavirus. They have been removed from the story as their layoffs were reported in early February.