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Conor Sen

Pandemic Economy Is Writing a New Labor Market Playbook

Worker shortages have made companies realize mass layoffs shouldn’t be the automatic response to every recession.

The opposite of a jobless recovery.

The opposite of a jobless recovery.

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/AFP

The economic rebounds following both the 2001 and 2008 recessions came to be known as jobless recoveries. Demand was slow to recover so employers held back on hiring — which for companies, at least, turned out to be the right decision.

The recovery from the pandemic recession has been very different and is carrying new lessons. Employers have struggled to fill jobs to meet sharp increases in demand, with operations suffering in many cases. In a call with investors last week to discuss quarterly results, railroad company CSX Corp. said its experience over the past two years has changed its thinking on staffing strategy in a slowdown.