Even in the coronavirus era, U.S. pharma and biotech employees say jobs secure: survey

19 August 2020

Beth Snyder Bulik / FiercePharma

Pandemic woes have workers fearing for their jobs across the U.S., but at least so far, the life sciences industry is largely immune. Pharma and biotech employees are feeling secure in their employment and salary prospects, according to a new study from EPM Scientific recruiting consultants.

Fifty percent of those surveyed said they're confident or very confident they will keep their jobs over the next six months. That said, they recognize the economic downturn means a new position might not be easy to find: 41% said they're negative or very negative about the current job market.

A similar dichotomy was repeated around compensation: 56% predicted a worsening economy over the next year, but 43% said their own compensation is likely to increase during the same timeframe.

Salary confidence varied by geographic region, though, EPM found, from a high of 64% of people in the Great Lakes area to a low of 33% in the Southeast who were confident their compensation would increase over the next year.

An EPM Scientific executive attributed some of the contradictions to the uncertainty in the air between March and May, when the survey was taken. They did notice, though, that respondents seemed to fall into two schools of thought. One group believed the pandemic would subside more quickly, while the other thought it would be an extended event.

The reality, however, borne out in the firm’s own unwavering client demand, is that neither biotech nor pharma hiring has seen much of a downturn.

“Overall, the recruitment market has remained very strong, and not just for companies who are developing vaccines or diagnostic tools, but across everything,” said Kristiaan Rawlings, VP of commercial recruitment.

Even the pharma salesforce largely avoided layoffs despite major changes in the marketplace, from postponed drug launches to a switch to all-remote visits. In fact, Rawlings said, “Demand for sales representatives in this market is as strong as I’ve seen over the past five or six years.”

Other pharma employment areas still in high demand include market research, business analytics and managed market analytics, regardless of work-from-home business switches.

Employment demand held strong across biotech, but for different reasons. Jack Boobyer, who heads EPM Scientific on the West Coast, said because many biotechs are still building out their companies, they couldn’t afford to stop hiring for business-critical positions.

One perk for employers across biopharma? Increased loyalty from employees, EPM found. The poor economy and job satisfaction combined to inspire almost half (48%) to agree they're likely to stay with their current companies for the next six months.

EPM initially planned the survey as the beginning of an annual check on life sciences job holders' opinions across a variety of topics. While the pandemic likely skewed results for 2020, the firm will continue the survey annually.

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