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In-depth: COVID-19 pandemic leads some workers to change job sectors

Virus Outbreak California Jobs
Posted at 6:06 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 12:21:06-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The American workforce has undergone unprecedented changes during the past year since the pandemic began.

The effect can be seen in both the data and in talking to those in the Kansas City area that have not only changed jobs but have changed job sectors.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two out of every three people unemployed during the pandemic seriously considered a job or career change.

Other data from Pew shows that low-wage jobs experienced the sharpest losses during the past year, compared to higher-wage jobs.

Michelle Packard of Olathe was in cosmetology for 27 years. Then the pandemic began, and she closed her in-home salon.

"I went to my kitchen washed my hands and went to go drink some coffee and I just started bawling and my daughter came in, she heard it and she hugged me and she said mom, you don't have to keep doing this if you want to take the other job, take the other job," Packard recalled.

That job was at an Aldi distribution center - Packard left one job sector, and found work in a new sector, overnight.

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"If I thought doing hair was hard, those warehouse workers, man, that's hard work, but I was happy to have it, I laid in a bathtub every night and cried and used salt to help my muscles, but was grateful," she said.

She held down the seasonal job until her stepdad fell ill with cancer. She called her sister and asked to work for her company, cleaning newly constructed homes so she could help take care of him.

"In the moment, you're making decisions, because you almost go into survival, you got to take care of your family first," Packard said.

Her stepdad died in October.

Seven months later, she’s eased into her next new job, still working for her sister’s company.

"Seeing the homeowners' faces light up when they come into their clean house and they go, thank you, and the gratitude and the blessings of their new home for them," Packard said.

But the joy she sees in new clients she also misses with her former customers at her salon.

"I miss making them smile I miss one client said, well, 'I didn't know I could have happy hair for four weeks.' Everybody deserves happy hair for four weeks, I do miss giving that," Packard said.

41 Action News also spoke to Jenna Jakowatz, who left her previous employer for a new job in advertising during the pandemic due to health and safety concerns.

She also works in the hospitality industry, where her current employer is looking for workers.

"Begging for help for to have people sign up, have people sign on to the bar I feel fairly compensated in terms of cash and pay. I think it makes a world of difference that it's a cash bar and we take home cash tips I know not every bar can say that, but I think it makes a world of difference. That being said, I know that it's extremely hard for people to want to come back to work," Jakowatz said.