As the pandemic finally comes to a close, many business owners are now looking back on its impact. COVID-19 and its societal aftermath have disrupted virtually every industry, bringing considerable losses to many. While loss was the prevailing theme of the pandemic, not every sector suffered.
The vast majority of industries have declined over the past year because of the pandemic. Consequently, the global global domestic product (GDP) dropped by 6.7% in 2020, with some nations experiencing more dramatic losses. While this decline was near-universal, some sectors went largely unaffected or even grew amid the pandemic.
These seven industries are among those that suffered the least from COVID-19.
The tech industry has been growing for years, but the pandemic gave it an unexpected boost. Spending on public cloud services alone reached $257.5 billion in 2020, with 70% of organizations planning to spend even more in 2021. As in-person interactions became unsafe, other industries had to digitize rapidly, leading to considerable tech growth.
Services like cloud computing and video conferencing have always been helpful, but amid COVID-19, they became essential. As a result, tech startups found themselves in a promising position while tech giants saw skyrocketing profits. Both Apple and Amazon topped $100 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time in 2020.
Tech also benefited from a lesser need for in-person workers. Many tech jobs don’t require face-to-face interaction, so the sector adapted to remote work easily.
While traditional retail suffered amid the pandemic, e-commerce benefited for the same reasons as the tech industry. Regulations like capacity restrictions and fear of contracting COVID-19 put in-person shopping in a less-than-ideal light. E-commerce sites provided a natural solution for both shoppers and retailers, as their growth highlighted.
Online shoppers spent a record $861.02 billion online in 2020, for 44% growth over 2019. This jump means that e-commerce now represents 21.3% of all retail sales, while it accounted for just 15.8% in 2019. The industry could grow even more in 2021 now that the public has grown accustomed to online shopping.
Like technology, e-commerce succeeded because it provided for the world’s suddenly changing needs. In that way, the sector was ahead of its time. E-commerce sites established themselves pre-pandemic before becoming a necessity for future markets.
Unsurprisingly, utilities ranks close to the top of industries that suffered the least amid the pandemic. Electric, water, gas, and sewage services are a necessity, so they’ll always have some level of demand. As more people stayed home for lengthier stretches, demand even rose for residential utility companies.
Between April and July 2020, consumers spent $6 billion more than usual on power bills alone. While industrial and commercial use fell, this surge in residential consumption more than made up for it. Since residential utilities are priced higher than commercial options, utility companies made more during the shift to remote work.
In a late 2020 study by NerdWallet, utilities showed the lowest unemployment level of any surveyed industry. The sector boasted a 2.2% unemployment rate, with 90% of companies also reporting no disruptions.
For the most part, the arts and entertainment sectors suffered amid the pandemic. According to the NerdWallet study, these industries saw an unemployment rate of 26%, one of the highest overall. That’s why it’s surprising that tattooing has emerged from the pandemic relatively strong.
While closures and restrictions hampered the tattoo industry early in the pandemic, it quickly adapted. Many shops abandoned walk-ins for an appointment-based business model and adopted stricter health protocols. Others turned to sponsorship deals, with some companies receiving 300 sponsorship applications a month or more.
Lockdown restrictions also created a surging demand for tattoos when shops reopened. With ample time and disposable income from stimulus checks, customers seemed to want tattoos more than ever. Thanks to this demand and shops’ quick adaptations, tattooing managed to thrive while other art industries struggled.
Unlike utilities, some industries’ success amid COVID-19 was unexpected. Despite widespread financial pressure on consumers, the real estate market boomed amid the pandemic. As the work-from-home movement picked up steam, more people looked to move away from expensive cities, leading to skyrocketing demand.
This mass migration away from urban areas also came at the same time as plummeting interest rates. Mortgage rates hit a record low of 2.65% in early 2021, enticing more people to buy soon. Simultaneously, COVID-19 regulations slowed new construction projects, leading to a housing shortage and further increasing demand.
These massive supply and demand shifts pushed property values skyward. The rise of virtual tours and online home buying also helped realtors entice customers and make sales despite the pandemic.
While some industries thrived amid the pandemic despite widespread monetary troubles, financial services succeed because of it. In the face of rising economic pressure, businesses and individuals alike needed financial assistance. Banks, insurers, peer-to-peer payment services, and underwriters all profited from this trend.
This industry was able to survive the pandemic thanks to more than just demand alone. Many older institutions quickly realized the value of financial technology (FinTech) and embraced it early. Adopting technologies like peer-to-peer lending, AI risk analysis, and app-based operations helped the sector adapt to an increasingly digitized environment.
On average, FinTech firms saw a 13% increase in transaction numbers and an 11% rise in volume. In some areas, those figures reached as high as 40%. Much of this growth comes from these companies’ willingness to adapt, with 60% offering new products or services in response to the pandemic.
It should come as no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry also saw significant growth amid COVID-19. While life science sectors like pharmaceuticals had shown strong pre-pandemic growth, the sudden need for medical innovation brought even more substantial growth.
Pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Pfizer have now become household names. This sudden brand recognition is primarily due to the industry’s ability to serve current needs. Many of these companies weren’t strictly vaccine producers before the pandemic but shifted their focus as COVID-19 worsened.
The pharmaceutical industry also embraced collaboration in the past year. By working together and sharing research, pharma companies were able to produce novel treatments in record time. This openness to collaboration led to rapid innovation, bringing in more money and saving lives.
COVID-19’s Impact Has Not Been Consistent
While COVID-19 affected every industry, it did not impact them evenly. Despite widespread struggles, these seven sectors managed to thrive, be it through quick adaptation, forward thinking, or sudden demand shifts.
As the world goes back to normal, other industries may learn from these examples. Companies can’t always prepare for unexpected emergencies, but they can succeed under the right circumstances.
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