How to cope with unemployment in a pandemic

First published on: 8th June 2020

The pandemic has posed a challenge not only to our health but to our economy. Some of you may face unemployment. We’re here to help you cope in our new series offering expert advice. By Sarah Bradbury.

This period of time has been tough on everyone. Stuck inside for months on end, apart from loved ones, and some will even have lost those dearest to them to this invisible but deadly virus.

On top of all that, insecurity with work and income can feel like a slap in the face. And the economic impact is still only catching up with a lot of us. While government support such as through the furlough scheme has kept some afloat, it’s due to end in October. Many will face the prospect of unemployment if they haven’t already.

While I myself have never been made redundant, my career trajectory has been far from linear, with many a challenge and twist and turn, not least graduating into a post-recession job market, having to move home at one point due to family reasons, and making a bold change late into my career.

I could see these as failures, mistakes or bumps in the road. But now I look back on these moments as being part and parcel of making me who I am today, not only in terms of my skills and experience, but also as a person.

Losing your job is never ideal – but what can we do to lessen the impact on our careers, finances and mental health? Here at TMIK we’re all about channeling the positive and focusing on what we can do, rather than what we can’t.

As such, we’ve turned to the experts for some advice on how to cope with unemployment during this pandemic, from both the practical HR perspective as well as the emotional, mental health side, recognising that each are as important as each other.

Head straight to top tips on how to cope with unemployment:

But first, what’s the scale of the issue?

The ONS statistics show the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the UK soared to 2.1 million in April, the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown, an increase of 856,500.

As of the 31st May, 8.7 million were on the government furlough scheme. While this will now end in October, there are concerns many may not have a job to return to depending on how lockdown eases and the economy recovers. More than 2 million self-employed people are claiming grants for lost profits.

What’s more is it’s the young that are most likely to be affected. Around a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds have been furloughed and a further 9% have lost their jobs altogether – the highest out of all age groups.

The Resolution Foundation also found that young people are most likely to work in sectors that have been shut down because of coronavirus, such as the arts, retail and hospitality. Only a quarter are able to work from home in contrast with nearly half of older workers.

And it’s not just in the UK. More than 43 million people have now filed for unemployment benefits in the US, almost a quarter of the American workforce.

According to the World Economic Forum, in the second quarter of 2020, COVID-19 may cost the equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs globally while 1.6 billion informal economy workers could suffer “massive damage” to their livelihoods.

And will the economy bounce back?

Well that’s the million dollar question. The experts suggest it will. But how long that will take is up for debate.

The IMF’s expectations are for a global recession on a par with the Great Depression, with a 3% hit to the economy.

The Guardian reported that the first signs of emerging from the worst are visible, but the recovery could be slower and longer than previously thought. As the UK starts to reopen, including non-essential shops from 15th June, the low point should be behind us.

Reuters echoed that analysis, referencing Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) who thinks we hit rock bottom of the crash in April. “We know that the economy, probably at its worst last month, may have been a third or so smaller than it normally would have been, in terms of output of goods and services and people’s spending,” he told the BBC television. “But that should be the worst of it.”

Meanwhile, EY suggest it will take 3 years for the economy to recover. They forecast GDP was set to fall by 6.8% in 2020, before returning to positive growth of 4.5% in 2021 as businesses and consumers return to normal.

So there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just a long tunnel.

Read our top tips on how to cope with unemployment:

How has the pandemic affected your work?