I’m a fortunate Gen Zer, part of the class that benefited from the economic recovery.

I'm a fortunate Gen Zer, part of the class that benefited from the economic recovery.

The Pandemic Economy: How the Class of 2019 Became Winners

Gen Z Graduates

If you were part of the college class of 2019, congratulations! You may not realize it, but you are one of the winners of the pandemic economy. While the health crisis threw many Gen Zers off their professional trajectories, the unprecedented cash assistance and a strong labor market have turned out to be unexpected boons for the class of 2019.

While other students had to contend with remote learning, you had already graduated before the pandemic hit. Many of you even managed to secure full-time jobs before the chaos ensued. This meant that if you were laid off, you qualified for enhanced unemployment benefits or had the privilege to work from home and avoid the daily commute. Additionally, you received all three rounds of stimulus checks directly deposited into your accounts.

As the economy gradually recovered from the pandemic, you also experienced an increase in wages and the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. As the eldest group of Gen Zers, born between 1996 and 2012, you disproportionately benefited from the flow of money and job opportunities due to a fortunate quirk of timing. This unexpected windfall of financial and professional advantages has set you apart from other generations.

Graduating into Economic Uncertainty

In 2019, there were already fears of an impending recession, and the Economic Policy Institute’s ANBLEs expressed hope for a high-pressure economy offering better opportunities for college graduates. However, no one could have predicted that a recession would be coupled with a global pandemic, resulting in an unprecedented economic downturn.

Younger workers, including many Gen Zers, were hit hard as companies scrambled to stay afloat and shed their workforce. According to a 2020 Pew Research study, one in four young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 lost their jobs from February to May 2020. However, the government quickly implemented assistance programs, including expanded and enhanced unemployment benefits, to provide stability and higher income. Though these benefits required prior employment, those who had recently entered the labor force before the pandemic found themselves in a more favorable position.

For college students still claimed as dependents, accessing the stimulus checks was not immediate. This further highlighted the division between those who could benefit from the influx of money and those who faced additional financial hurdles.

Riding the Wave of the Great Resignation

In the years following the brief pandemic recession, Gen Z became the driving force behind the Great Resignation, a trend where individuals transitioned between jobs seeking better opportunities, increased pay, and stability. This trend benefited young workers, particularly those in entry-level positions.

The job hopping phenomenon differed greatly from previous generations, where college graduates often struggled to find jobs in their desired field. The class of 2019 experienced a more favorable landscape, with opportunities to upgrade jobs and secure higher-paying positions.

This culture shift was not solely driven by economic factors but also a change in attitudes towards work-life balance and mental health. It became more acceptable for young workers to advocate for themselves and establish clear boundaries from the start of their careers.

Faring Better Than the Class of 2008

Despite facing their own set of challenges, such as living through a pandemic in their early 20s and entering a transformed world of work, the winners of the class of 2019 are still set for a stronger start compared to those who graduated in 2008. The 2008 graduates were heavily impacted by the Great Recession, resulting in potentially lower lifetime incomes, difficulties in climbing the career ladder, delayed homeownership, and limited ability to save for retirement or start families.

The class of 2019, however, will not experience a lost decade of progress. They had opportunities that were not available to those who graduated in 2013, thanks to the different policy choices made during this recession.

So, if you were part of the class of 2019, consider yourself fortunate in the grand scheme of economic history. The pandemic recovery has set you on a path with greater financial stability and opportunities for success. Your experiences during these turbulent times will shape your lives but not hinder your progress or prospects for the future.

Are you a class of 2019 graduate with a story to share about the economy of the last four years? Contact this reporter at [email protected].