Aviv Russ feels like the cards have been stacked against his generation -- and he’s not wrong.

Russ is a millennial, the infamous cohort of people born between 1981 and 1996. He graduated from Boston-based Emerson College in 2009, just as the Great Recession gutted the jobs market for years.

He spent his first few years after school fighting for low-paid work as a production assistant. His mentors told him, “‘Dude, you missed the good years by like five years,’” he said.

A decade later, just as he had built up savings and was preparing to buy a house, the 31-year-old is out of a job again. The coronavirus outbreak has dried up production gigs in Hollywood, where he works.

No age group will escape the pain of the current economic slowdown, but millennials were already on more precarious financial footing than their elders. They left college with unprecedented levels of student debt and missed out on crucial years of wage growth because of the 2008 downturn.

Compared to other groups at the same point in their lives, people in their 20s and 30s have relatively low levels of home ownership, net worth and real income, according to a 2018 Federal Reserve Board of Governors paper.

“They’re walking a tight rope and there are cliffs on either side,” said Kathryn Edwards, a labor economist at the Rand Corporation. “It’s hard to imagine someone making it through both of these recessions in this age group really unscathed.”

Economic downturns are inevitable, but they’re not usually so severe. And once-in-a-generation recessions don’t tend to occur just a decade apart.

For millennials, the timing of these events has been particularly damaging. People who enter a labor market with high unemployment typically see a 10% hit to income in the first year, with the effect averaging out to a 1.8% reduction in yearly earnings over 10 years, according economists at Yale and the University of Rochester. They also found the impact of the Great Recession on wages to have been “much larger” than previous downturns.

Because an economic crisis hampers job mobility, the effects of one early on in a person’s professional life can last for the next 20 years, research from Carnegie Mellon economics professor Shu Lin Wee has found.

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