INVEST IN YOU: READY. SET. GROW. Looking for a job? Coronavirus-related layoffs expanding roles for freelancers in these hot sectors

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Thursday’s report from the Labor Department that 1.5 million people filed new state unemployment claims last week serves as a stark reminder that the impact from the Covid-19 economic fallout is very much persisting.

For those seeking work amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is a bright spot: According to the annual “Future of the Workforce Report” from Upwork, opportunities abound right now for the independent professional. With the unemployment rate at 13.5% and a rapidly changing labor market, hiring managers are accelerating the use of freelancers, says the global freelance job platform.

The survey finds that 45% of hiring managers expect freezes on new staff, while 39% expect layoffs to continue in the coming months. At the same time, close to three-quarters (73%) of hiring managers are looking to maintain or expand their hiring of independent professionals, with a typical employment length of about four months. Nearly half of all hiring managers surveyed said that they are now more likely to use these freelancers as a result of Covid-19.

Upwork’s annual report surveyed 1,500 hiring managers, once in November of 2019 and again in April of 2020, after the coronavirus outbreak. 

“This remote work experiment will also have long-term implications for the traditional ways of hiring,” Upwork’s chief economist Adam Ozimek told CNBC in an email. “As companies embrace more remote work, they will also see that this opens up opportunities for how they think about hiring, recruiting and their workforce as a whole. They will no longer be confined to just their local labor markets but can find the most skilled talent, regardless of their location, that best meets their business needs.” 

Flexible work: Not just a short-term solution

The most popular fields for short-term project work are writing, creative, web and software development positions, according to the Upwork survey. Hiring managers cited projects focused on motion graphic design, front-end data development, internet marketing and web analytics.

“For many the reliance on independent talent and a more flexible workforce is not just a short-term solution but a long-term strategy that will enable businesses to stay competitive and agile as they accelerate into the future,” Ozimek said. 

Employers are also on the lookout for candidates with transferable soft skills and more foundational skills, such as customer service and problem solving

The growth rate of full-time remote work is expected to more than double from 30% to 65% within the next five years.

With the coronavirus pandemic making in-person hiring impossible in many cases, recruiters and hiring professionals are adopting virtual platforms to conduct interviews and speak with candidates.  

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The transition to a remote working environment for most white-collar and corporate employees has several benefits, including no commute, less time spent on nonessential meetings, and limited distractions that are typically commonplace while working in the office. Working remotely has provided employees with increased flexibility, and 59% of hiring managers expect that companies who do not adapt to these more flexible conditions are at risk of becoming less competitive. 

“Covid-19 has thrown many companies and workers into the deep end when it comes to trying remote work. But what most are finding is that remote work really does work. … Lack of commute, reduction of nonessential meetings, greater autonomy and, most importantly, increased productivity. … These benefits will be hard to give up,” Ozimek said.

This article was written by Nicole Dienst for CNBC.com

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