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For those early scary months of the pandemic, nearly everything was closed. That is, with the exception of “essential” businesses. Now what’s one person’s “nonessential” is another person’s “essential,” as relied-upon businesses such as the local gym, swimming pool, hair salon/barber shop, and restaurants shut down, and people were forced to forgo nonemergency doctors’ appointments, samples at the ice-cream store, going to a movie theater or out for a drink, manicures, pedicures, brow shaping, eyelash extensions and massages—basically anything that couldn’t comply with required masks and six feet of social distancing.

But a new research study from JustBusiness looked closely on this still-COVID-19 conscious world and its workplace and employment situation: It ranked 8 “Pandemic-Proof” Industries thriving in 2020.

Of the eight, there’s not a specific tech business listed, but Eric Goldschein, partnerships editor at JustBusiness and lead researcher on the “Pandemic-Proof Industries” report, said: So much of what we do today is in some way touched or altered by tech, which is why tech-related fields fall into many of the various industries we reviewed. Some of the top-performing industries—such as ‘Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services’ have tech sub-industries that are performing well—for example, ‘computer design and programming,’ and ‘technical consulting.'”

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The grateful 8

Gathering data from the US Census and unemployment numbers, with industries broken down by two-digit NAICS (North American Industry Classification System ) sector codes here’s what they came up with:

  1. Utilities: Even if nearly everyone hadn’t been sent home to tax all the utilities in the home throughout the day, utilities may be utmost essential. Without the utility companies, the 90% of students worldwide sent home to e-learn and the thousands of businesses that shifted to remote would not be able to function. The unemployment level for utility companies is just 2.2%—by far the lowest of any sector in the assessment (as a comparison, Arts, Entertainment and Recreation saw more than 26% unemployment). This sector includes businesses that provide services like electric power, natural gas, water, and sewage removal. It can include generation, transmission, treatment, and distribution of these services.

  2. Enterprise management: Establishments in this sector administer, oversee, and manage other businesses, including organizational planning and decision making—such as investment firms. A notable 38.6% of these businesses reported that they had at least three months of cash on hand, and 27.6% said they had generated over $500,000 in revenue in the last month, which makes it the highest percentage of any industry and, of that, 18.1% reported an increase in revenue over the month prior, as well as increases in the number of employees and the number of hours they worked.

  3. Construction: Tied for third, this industry constructs buildings or projects and can include general contractors. Construction projects around the country have continued throughout the pandemic, with 18.3% of businesses saying that the pandemic has had either no impact or a positive impact on them. This industry has also reported a relatively high rate of increase in the number of employees working as well as the hours they worked.

3. Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services: Tied for third with construction and is explanatory, with duties in business that include as office administration, hiring and placing of personnel, document preparation, solicitation, collection, security and surveillance services, cleaning, and waste disposal.

  • 13.6% said they saw an increase in revenue in the last week
  • 87.4% of these businesses said they had missed no payments or bills since March 13, 2020
  • 10.2% reported hiring more employees

5. Finance and insurance: Businesses that deal with financial transactions and underwriting risk make up the finance and insurance industry and it was barely disrupted during the pandemic.

  • 86.9% of businesses did not have to close offices, even for a day
  • Unemployment in this sector is quite low, 3.1% as of August
  • They’re wealthy: 39.2% said they had at least three months of cash on hand for business operations.

6. Manufacturing: Manufacturing is made up of plants, mills, and factories, as well as places that make and sell general public goods on-site, such as bakeries and custom tailors.

  • 13.1% saw an increase in revenue during that time as well. Employees and the hours they worked increased, too
  • 13.2% said they made over $500,000 in revenue/total sales last month, the second-most on this list.

7. Professional, scientific, and technical services: A wide-ranging field, several businesses fall under this category, such as legal advice and representation; accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services; architectural, engineering, and specialized design; computer services; consulting; advertising; photographic services; translation and interpretation services; veterinary services; and more.

  • Unemployment was 5.8%, and many businesses reported little-to-no impact, or even positive impact, from the pandemic.
  • 30.6% of these businesses reported having more than three months worth of cash on hand

8. Retail trade: Yes, this means the local gift shop or name-brand clothing stores, but it also includes retailers that sell office supplies, electronics, automobiles, etc; as well as non-store retailers that sell through vending machines, catalogs, and other direct methods. This industry was up-and-down this year, but in general the whole sector has performed well.

  • 25% of all stores reported an uptick in sales over the past week
  • Retail hired more employees working more-than-of-late extended hours

Supply suffered, though: 57.1% of retail trade businesses report supply chain disruptions in the last week. But those that overcame the challenges were rewarded with rising revenues.

How tech fares

Further regarding tech, Goldschein said: “From a macro standpoint, when you look at the bottom of the list—arts/entertainment, accommodation and food services, educational services—these are the industries that have really been disrupted by the pandemic, and as such, the tech platforms and solutions within these categories aren’t doing as well as those at the top [eight, above] of the list. In other words, if you’re a tech platform that powers utilities or enterprise management companies, you’re in better shape today than your counterparts in the arts or food service.”


Data on how these businesses have been performing through the pandemic comes from two main sources: The US Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey (SBPS), and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment rates for the month of August 2020.

JustBusiness conducted a Q&A survey over an eight-week period, from April 26 to June 27, 2020.