Airlines, hotels, travel agencies and event companies have all been suffering, but interviews with more than two dozen firms and workers reveal that the pain is now translating into layoffs in a wider circle of industries, including a bakery and a chain restaurant.
At the Port of Los Angeles, 145 drivers have been laid off and others have been sent home without pay as massive ships from China stopped arriving and work dried up. At travel agencies in Atlanta and Los Angeles, several workers lost their jobs as bookings evaporated. Christie Lites, a stage-lighting company in Orlando, laid off more than 100 of its 500 workers nationwide this past week and likely will lay off 150 more, according to chief executive Huntly Christie. Meanwhile a hotel in Seattle is closing an entire department, a former employee said, and as many as 50 people lost their jobs after the South by Southwest festival in Austin got canceled.
Economists fear more layoffs in the coming weeks as supply chains come to a halt and people stay home and spend less.
“We will definitely see an effect on jobs from the coronavirus, and it could be pretty large in leisure and hospitality,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter. “The first thing we’ll see is a reduction in hours. We hear many reports of employers canceling staff everywhere except in health care.”
Monday in Los Angeles, Sam Creighton and about 20 colleagues were fired from the China Visa Service Center. Creighton helped Americans get travel documents to China, but business plummeted as groups and individuals canceled trips to Asia out of virus fear. The company processed around 400 visas a month; in February, that number fell to 22. The visa center did not return a request for comment.
“This job was my paycheck,” said Creighton, 27, who worked at the company for about three years. “I really don’t know what to do next.”