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The U.S. Depends On Service Jobs More Than Ever. Now They're Evaporating.

  • Economy was dependent on jobs in services sector before virus
  • Unemployment claims now piling up at frantic pace in industry
A restaurant stands empty in New Rochelle, New York on March 16.
A restaurant stands empty in New Rochelle, New York on March 16.Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

For a decade the U.S. economy has been steadily drawing people into the workforce. Almost overnight, that machine crashed into reverse.

Government-ordered shutdowns of restaurants and other businesses set off an avalanche of unemployment claims this week mere days after America hit red alert and began bracing for a pandemic. And it’s exposing the systemic importance of a section of the workforce that’s been quietly building through several boom-and-bust cycles.

In Juan Sandoval’s case, that’s left him wondering what will happen to not one but both of his jobs.

Most Tuesdays, Sandoval puts in a six-hour shift at a fried chicken fast food chain in Chicago’s West Loop, and then heads over to Italian Village Restaurants a few miles away for seven hours prepping salads at about $14 an hour.