The pandemic has had a devastating impact on jobs, especially in the U.S. A total of 22.7 million Americans (roughly one-seventh of the U.S. workforce) claiming unemployment benefits as of Oct. 10, according to CNN.
And as far as industries go, we also know fashion and retail have been especially hard-hit in 2020. So, when it came time for our annual salary survey, we treated it a bit differently, asking our readers if and how how their jobs and salaries were impacted, as well as our usual big question: how much money they make.
We heard from about 800 people spanning all company sizes and segments of the industry, from companies including Gap Inc., Stitch Fix, Nordstrom, Vox Media, Saint Laurent, Shopbop, Condé Nast, Michael Kors, Tanya Taylor, Karla Otto, Macy's, Tory Burch, Proenza Schouler, Brother Vellies and many more.
First, a bit about who those respondents are: The majority said they work in either design, PR, editorial, marketing or retail. About 43% said they live in New York, 12% in California and 21% outside the U.S. Eighty-seven percent identified as female. About 70% of respondents identified as white, 11% Black, 10% Asian and 8% Latinx. (They were allowed to select more than one.)
Before the pandemic hit, the vast majority— about 76% — said they were in full-time salaried positions; most of the rest were either freelance, part-time or unemployed. About one-third of respondents said their salaries weren't impacted at all in 2020, but for more than 50%, there was some negative effect: 14% said they were laid off; 10% said they were furloughed; 15% said they took temporary salary reductions; and 14% said they're still working on reduced salaries.
Salary reductions were pretty commonplace across the industry, according to our survey, but they weren't all handled in the same way. The biggest group of respondents — 39% — said their salary reduction was between 16% and 25%; the rest, in decreasing order of popularity, reported reductions between 5 to 15%, then over 40%, then 26 to 40%.
Thirty-four percent of people who experienced salary reductions also said they had no idea when their salary would go back to normal. Some people said their salary reductions fluctuated. (One person had a 50% reduction that later turned into a 80% reduction.) Meanwhile, while some people (22%) said they had their work hours reduced commensurate with their salary reductions, many (50%) reported not having their hours reduced at all.
Of those who were laid off this year, 64% said they're still unemployed; only 21% reported finding new full-time jobs.
I was laid off
I was furloughed
My salary was reduced temporarily
My salary was reduced and still is
It wasn't impacted
I'm making even more money
I had to reduce my hours voluntarily
I had to quit or take a leave of absence
We also looked at how various race and gender identities may have been impacted differently. As we mentioned above, the vast majority of our respondents were female, which is likely reflective of the fashion industry as a whole — as such, most of the people who said they were laid off or took salary reductions were women, as you can see in the above table. This is reflective of a broader trend across the country: Overall, women have disproportionately lost jobs since the pandemic began. In September alone, four times more women than men found themselves unemployed according to NPR.
From our survey, when these hardships are looked at as a percentage of each gender identity, the numbers are a little more even. For example, of all the female respondents, 13.64% said they were laid off, while of all the male respondents, 14.74% said they were laid off. A slightly higher percentage of women said their salaries weren't impacted, compared to male respondents.
BIPOC were disproportionately more likely to have been laid off, according to our survey. Also, certain professions within fashion appeared to be harder hit than others when it came to layoffs and salary reductions: Of the respondents who said they were laid off, 25% were in PR and 21% were in retail. (PR saw more salary reductions than any other sector as well, while retail saw the most furloughs.)
Now, onto more general salary data: We found that, unsurprisingly the average mean salary for men was a bit higher than that of women — $79,390 vs. $74,180. For those who identify as non-binary (a very small portion of respondents), the average mean salary was $40,670.
Looking at the three biggest racial cohorts we had, Black respondents had the lowest mean salary ($67,680); white respondents came in second ($74,950) and Asian respondents came out on top ($94,930).
We also got an idea of which sectors of the industry tended to be the most lucrative overall: Despite seeing the most layoffs, PR had the highest distribution of both $100k+ and $200k+ salaries. Business owner/Entrepreneur had the highest mean salary at $188,070, followed by Influencer at $113,000 and then Marketing/Advertising at $80,000. Retail/buying had the lowest mean salary of $61,300, followed by Supply Chain, Design and Editorial, where mean salaries were all around $72,000 to $73,000.
Below, you'll find the mean salaries for each field we surveyed and received a significant number of responses for.
Assistant designer: $49,620
Associate designer: $62,380
Senior designer: $69,220
Design director: $114,670
Creative director: $190,170
Marketing & Advertising
Project manager: $70,000
Social media manager: $70,780
Account executive: $88,750
Marketing manager: $90,900
Assistant publicist: $41,880
Associate publicist: $47,300
Senior publicist: $75,400
Publicity director: $112,600
VP Publicity: $130,130
Editorial — Print
Assistant market editor: $31,500
Senior editor: $85,000
Director-level editor: $100,600
Editorial — Digital
Senior editor: $104,300
Director-level editor: $105,800
Photo director: $63,800
Creative director: $75,250
Art director: $87,330
Sales assistant: $38,460
Assistant merchandiser: $47,400
Assistant buyer: $51,860
Store manager: $49,470
Sales rep: $66,150
Associate buyer: $70,600
Product Development/Supply Chain
Development assistant: $42,000
Development associate: $43,600
Product manager: $71,620
Sourcing manager: $130,290