It’s been a hard year for everyone when it comes to the job market. COVID has caused so many people to be out on reduced hours or lose their jobs completely. And as the new year begins and we look back on 2020, a troubling pattern emerges. Millennials and Gen Z are suffering the most when it comes to unemployment, more than any other generation. And if you’re asking just how many millennials are unemployed, well, you’re in for a shock.
Here are the startling numbers: 43% of U.S. workers have lost their jobs or had their household income negatively affected due to COVID. And it’s worse for those who already were low-income — 52% of low-income workers reported the same impact. However, it’s the worst for millennials — they’re reporting in at 60%. In short, the majority of millennial workers are currently unemployed, and that’s a huge problem.
It’s true that everyone is experiencing unemployment, which is at an all time high (even higher than the 2008 recession) of 14.8%, but millenials are really struggling. Besides being saddled with ridiculously high student debt going into the pandemic, and increasing housing costs, they also already had the negative side effects from the Great Recession to deal with.
Millennials are categorized as being born between 1980 and 1997, which means a lot of them entered the workforce just as the Great Recession was in full swing. They had no time to recuperate financially between then and now. In fact, by 2016 millennial wealth was about 34% lower than models projected it should have been.
One big issue is that millennials had to put off buying homes after the Great Recession, meaning that going into COVID their equity was already lower than that of their parents and grandparents at the same age. To put it in perspective, before the recession, the average age for buying a first home was 39; afterwards, it jumped to 47.
Another issue is that they entered the job market at a time of high employment, when there wasn’t much demand for workers, and their wages ended up being 20% lower than that of the boomer generation’s wages at the same age. All this to say, millennials were already in a bad spot financially when COVID hit, and it hit hard.
And now, millenials up the majority of the workforce, and are therefore disproportionately affected by the pandemic job losses. More millennials work in sectors such as hospitality, healthcare, and retail, which were some of the most impacted industries when COVID hit.
To top it all off, millennials are facing a longer stretch of joblessness than other generations. On average, they experience 12.2 weeks of unemployment, the highest of any generation surveyed (the shortest is experienced by 16-19 year olds, at a stretch of 8.7 weeks).
In short, a huge amount of millennials are unemployed. I know it sounds bleak — trust me, I’m a millennial myself, and I feel the deep sadness that my generation is experiencing, along with everyone else during these trying times. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve dealt with economic hardship before, and we came out the other side a little worse for wear, but still here and eager to work, improve, and be great. If we could get through it then, we can get through it now. It’s important to stay aware of the effects COVID is having on millenial’s finances and job prospects, but it’s also important not to stay rooted in fear.
I know it feels like we’re getting knocked down again just as we’re coming up from air, and that may just be the case. But it’s time to take a deep breath, do the best we can, and try to imbue our day-to-day with hope and excitement for the future. Because one day, millenials will be buying houses and reaching the financial milestones they’ve been deprived of — and they’ll do it having been through the worst of times, which will make it that much sweeter.