Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment has soared this year. As of June, almost 18 million Americans were jobless. Even more have been furloughed or seen their hours cut.
But the health crisis isn’t just hurting those already in the workforce. According to new data, recent college grads are suffering, too. A June poll from the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows about 8% of companies are planning to or have already revoked job offers to class of 2020 graduates. At one point, that share was as high as 22%.
Grads who do see their offers revoked are thrown back into the job market — the nation’s worst in more than a decade. For those with federal student loans, they also face mounting financial pressure — especially as their six-month payment grace periods start to run out.
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. Though finding a job in today’s flailing market is certainly challenging, there are still employment options out there. If you’re one of the many 2020 graduates on the hunt for one, this guide can help.
Navigating the job market in 2020
Not all industries have been hit the same by the pandemic. The hospitality and leisure industry, for example, has taken the biggest blow thus far. Since the start of the outbreak, the sector has lost more than 4 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In just the restaurants and bars category, jobs are down by 3.1 million since February. Though things have started to pick up in these areas in recent weeks, total employment is still nowhere near its pre-pandemic numbers.
Retail has also taken a beating, losing more than 2 million jobs in March and April alone, and the transportation industry has also seen steep losses, largely due to waning travel and tourism.
It’s not all bad news, though. Many industries have expanded in recent months and focusing your job search in these sectors may help to make the job search easier.
The health and family care sectors are just a few of such thriving industries. Health services gained more than 350,000 jobs in June, while childcare, family services and private education saw notable upticks as well. Here’s a quick look at some of the best and worst-performing industries during the most recent months of the pandemic:
Industries going strong:
- Private education
- Real estate
Industries hit hard:
- Restaurants, bars and food services
- Hospitality (hotels) and tourism
- Airlines and transportation
- Entertainment (theme parks, movie theaters, sports venues, etc.)
- Beauty and personal services
- Oil and gas
Shifting your focus to some of these stronger markets might lead to more opportunities. You should also consider looking outside your geographic area. Since many companies are now operating remotely, you may be eligible for positions in other states or even other countries. Check out remote-specific job boards like FlexJobs and Remote.co for potential options.
Tips for getting through the financial hard times
Even if you do hone your job search and look toward more thriving sectors, there’s still a chance employment won’t come easy. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get creative in how you manage your finances until things turn around. The below tips can help.
Look for lower-cost housing
If mom and dad are up for it, you might consider moving in with your parents for a while — at least until the pandemic blows over. You’ll save big on housing costs, and you can also take advantage of the rent-free time to save aggressively. That will ensure you’re ready to put down that security deposit (or down payment) as soon as you’ve locked in a job.
If moving home isn’t an option or your family needs financial help, too, you can:
- Talk to your landlord or property manager. You may be able to get on a payment plan or defer your payments for a certain period of time.
- Look for housing assistance. Many states and municipalities offer rent and housing payment assistance for residents in need.
- Consider adding a roommate. If you can add another person or two, you can cut your housing costs drastically — not to mention your utility bills, too.
Depending on your household’s income level, you may also qualify for Section 8 housing. This usually requires just 30% of your income.
Take on a side gig or part-time job
Food delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and other similar apps have exploded thanks to stay-at-home orders. The same is true for grocery delivery services, like Instacart and Shipt.
Some other potential side gigs include:
- Dog walking
- House sitting
- Mowing lawns
- Babysitting or nannying
Though these gigs don’t come with massive salaries, they can help you stay afloat during difficult times. They’re also flexible schedule-wise, which is helpful in case you line up an interview.
Get serious about cutting corners
Keeping your costs low is critical if you’re not bringing in much income. You’ll want to reduce things like your grocery bill, utilities, gas, and more.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Shop at discount stores, like Costco or Aldi — both for groceries and general household items. The local dollar store may also have some staples.
- Review your utility and service providers. If it’s been a few years since you chose your power company or phone provider, chances are you’re not getting the best rate. Take time to compare your options, and don’t be afraid to call up your current providers to renegotiate.
- Rely on fans and open windows rather than your A/C. Air conditioning costs can get expensive, especially in the warmer months. Make it a point to open more windows and invest in a few box fans to keep the air circulating instead.
- Cut the cord. You’d be surprised at how much you can save by cutting out cable or other entertainment services.
You can also commit to DIYing more. Cook at home instead of ordering takeout or cancel that gym membership and work out at home instead.
Dealing with student loan debt
If you have federal student loans, you’re probably coming up on the end of that six-month grace period. Fortunately, if making those new payments seems impossible, you have quite a few options.
With federal loans, you can apply for several types of repayment plans, including ones based on your income level or ones with increasing payments over time. You can also file for forbearance or deferment, both of which put a temporary stay on payments while you sort through the financial hardship.
For private student loans, refinancing can help. This lets you take advantage of today’s low interest rates, ideally lowering your monthly payment in the process. You might also ask your lender about any discounts you might qualify for. Some companies offer discounts if you set up autopayments. This could save you a lot both over time and on your monthly payment.
All in all, here are some of your options if you’re having trouble making your payments:
- Income-driven repayment plan
- Graduated repayment plan
- Extended repayment plan
- Forbearance and Deferment
Once you find a job, there’s a chance your employer may help you with paying off your student loan debt. Not all companies offer this, but it’s worth asking HR about once you’re hired on.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it particularly hard for the 2020 class of college graduates — especially those with student loans. If you’re one of the many 2020 grads who’s struggling financially, be ready to get creative. Negotiate with your landlord and utility providers, slash that shopping budget, and talk to your student loan lender as soon as possible. You have more options than you think.
Trellis is here to help
For 45 years, Trellis has helped individuals and families get a handle on their finances, prepare for buying a home, and to secure funding and down payment assistance. The knowledgeable and compassionate counselors at Trellis can set you up with the education, coaching, and other resources to best help you with your unique situation.