As measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic lead to mass layoffs, people ages 18 to 34 are being disproportionately affected.
Emilio Romero, 23, has mixed feelings about losing his job. It’s a major financial setback, but with two previous hospitalizations for pneumonia, a restaurant was not the safest place for the recent college graduate as the COVID-19 pandemic mushroomed.
“Working in a restaurant, there’s obviously exposure to a lot of people and dirty plates,” Romero said. “Even before I was officially laid off, I was getting pretty nervous about the way everything was playing out, for my own safety.”
Romero worked his last shift as a restaurant host in San Diego’s Little Italy on March 16, the same day San Diego County officials ordered all restaurants to switch to takeout and delivery only. Since then, COVID-19 cases in California have risen more than twentyfold, from 598 to 11,986 as of Friday afternoon. If his restaurant asked him back tomorrow, Romero said, he wouldn’t risk it.
Yet he worries about his bank balance, which is barely sufficient to cover one month’s rent and expenses.
He’s considering asking his landlord whether he can break his lease to move back in with his parents. But he hopes a government check from the recently passed $2 trillion stimulus package will allow him to stay put as he continues to study for his real estate license—though it’s another industry jeopardized by the virus-driven economic downturn.
As measures to slow the pandemic decimate jobs and threaten to plunge the economy into a deep recession, young adults such as Romero are disproportionately affected. An Axios-Harris survey conducted through March 30 showed that 31 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 had either been laid off or put on temporary leave because of the outbreak, compared with 22 percent of those 35 to 49 and 15 percent of those 50 to 64.