Health and Healthcare Systems

What’s it like to be unemployed during the pandemic? One New Yorker shares his story

The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor is seen in this photograph taken May 20, 2009. Visitors to the statue will again be allowed to climb to the Statue's crown which will re-open to the public on July 4th, 2009, after having been closed since the September 11, 2001 attacks.  REUTERS/Mike Segar   (UNITED STATES SOCIETY) - GM1E55L02NS01

Jay Fairbrother believe his state of New York has handed the pandemic better than most. Image: REUTERS/Mike Segar

Jay Fairbrother
Contributor , Business Insider
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how United States is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

United States

  • Jay Fairbrother is a 38-year-old accountant based in Buffalo, New York.
  • He lost his job as an accountant in May, but has been using this time to do what he wants while looking for his next opportunity.
  • With no more than a few introductory interviews and job postings, Fairbrother is worried what the future holds — especially because this is the longest he's been unemployed.

The pandemic has been strangely enjoyable.

Being able to spend more time doing what I want to do in a day has been eye-opening. The pandemic has also allowed me to enjoy the outdoors and the weather much more than I'd typically get to. I've been able to do much more cycling and running than I typically would have. It's also allowed me to explore some interests I wasn't able to before, such as starting a YouTube channel to give myself a bit of a creative outlet that I'd lacked in my life beforehand.

Have you read?

On the downside, I've obviously been socializing a lot less. I haven't seen some of my out-of-town family since it began, and I haven't seen many of my friends who live in town either, as we all try to follow the guidelines for dealing with this. My wife and I also had to cancel the vacation we'd planned for earlier this summer.

I'm hoping to find a job once job postings become a little more abundant. I've had no real prospects so far.

I haven't been able to land more than a couple introductory interviews with HR. I spend a few hours per week scouting job boards, but there are very few postings available at my career level right now.

So far, my family and I have been doing just fine. My wife's paycheck and the extra $600 unemployment benefits from the government have allowed us to pay our bills while preserving our savings up to this point.

Unemployment COVID-19 jobs work
US unemployment in August was around 8.4%. Image: Bureau of Labor Statistics

My unemployment application process was very smooth. At the time I lost my job, I had heard a lot of horror stories about New York being backlogged with claims and people having trouble applying or receiving their unemployment benefits. But I logged on to the website, filled out the required information, and submitted my claim without any issues. My application was processed and approved quickly.

I received my first payment exactly on time and have had no issues with any of my other weekly payments in the time since. Though we've had to delay some big purchases on the house we were planning on making this year, cutting out most "discretionary" spending has been relatively easy due to lockdowns and shuttered businesses.

Financially, I'm just worried that the pandemic won't subside and the government won't renew unemployment assistance.

More generally, I'm also concerned how schools opening — or remaining closed — will affect my young daughter, who's starting kindergarten this year. Schools in my area all have different reopening plans, some much more organized than others. We've actually decided to send her to a different school because it seemed like they were more prepared for a safe reopening.

Depending on what schools do and when my wife's company decides to have people work in the office again, I may have to stop my job search to stay home with my children and take care of things at home. I think my state is handling it better than most at this point, but I'm still worried about the uncertainty of what the future holds.

While I think accounting probably took less of a hit than some other career paths, I've been surprised at how hard job searching has been thus far. I've never been unemployed this long or had so few job prospects. That, combined with the greater uncertainty in the world, has made the whole situation very hard.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsJobs and the Future of Work
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Scientists make pancreatic cancer discovery, and other top health stories to read

Shyam Bishen

July 17, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum