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Lost Generations: Long‐Term Effects of the COVID‐19 Crisis on Job Losers and Labour Market Entrants, and Options for Policy*


This paper discusses the potential long-run effects of large-scale unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis in the labour market on vulnerable job losers and labour market entrants in the United States. The paper begins by contrasting measures of the scale of job loss during the crisis. These measures are paired with estimates from past recessions indicating that the costs of job loss and unemployment can reduce workers' earnings and raise their mortality for several decades. Focusing only on a subset of vulnerable job losers, the potential lifetime earnings losses from job loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic are predicted to be up to $2 trillion. Related losses in employment could imply a lasting reduction in the overall employment-population ratio. For these workers, losses in potential life years could be up to 24 million. Even at the low range, the resulting estimates are substantially larger than losses in potential life years from deaths directly due to COVID-19. New labour market entrants are at risk to suffer long-term losses in earnings and mortality as well. Based partly on experiences in other countries, the paper discusses potential reforms to short-time compensation programmes and unemployment insurance, which could help limit the short- and long-term harm from layoffs going forward.

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