Coronavirus layoffs send middle-class workers down the economic ladder

In summary

From shattered career prospects to pay cuts and sudden shift work, the pandemic is forcing skilled labor and middle-class workers into lower wages and gig jobs.

Californians need income and fast. Thousands of people who weathered the initial storm of pandemic shutdowns have started the hunt for new work. Faced with the most unforgiving job market in recenthistory, many are turning to the few industries hiring. Often, they’re the ones on the front lines.

A record number of Californians — more than 8 million — have filed first-time unemployment claims since March. The lucky ones managed a lateral career switch without too much financial damage, but as personal savings and emergency unemployment benefits run dry, an increasing number of middle-income and white-collar workers can’t afford to wait for their old jobs to return.

“There’s so many overqualified people who’ve lost their jobs applying,” said Debra Feleke, the hiring manager for a Safeway district that includes 21 stores in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “Professors, I’ve had people with doctorates and masters. It’s really quite astounding.”

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