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‘I felt like I wasn’t a proper adult’: How the pandemic job market left young people stuck

Ellen Hine, Cincinnati Enquirer |

For a lot of young people, the concepts of adulthood and having a job are tangled up in one another. A real job means that they’re self-sufficient, that they’re responsible for taking care of themselves and their debts. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic has kept young Americans disproportionately out of the workforce.

Roughly one-fourth of young people were unemployed during the height of the pandemic recession in late spring 2020, compared to around one-tenth of older workers.

Young Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander workers had higher unemployment rates than their white peers.

By halting educational and job opportunities for young people, the pandemic has created a crisis around adulthood. Between February and June 2020, nearly one in three young people was “disconnected” or not working or enrolled in school, according to an analysis of U.S. census data by the Pew Research Center.

Even as vaccines started flowing to the public and the first anniversary of the pandemic passed, there’s still no clear idea of what an end to all of this looks like. 

Meanwhile, young people across the country, unsure and unmoored, are stuck somewhere on the brink of the rest of their lives.

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