Like millions of young people across Europe, Rebecca Lee, 25, has suddenly found herself shut out of the labor market as the economic toll of the pandemic intensifies.
Her job as a personal assistant at a London architecture firm, where she had worked for two years, was eliminated in September.
After sending out nearly 100 job applications and receiving scores of rejections, Ms. Lee finally landed a two-month contract at a family-aid charity that pays 10 pounds (about $13) an hour.
“At the moment, I will take anything I can get,” she said. “It’s been desperate.”
The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly fueled a new youth unemployment crisis in Europe, and it may be about to get worse.
Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is facing calls for another national lockdown. On Wednesday, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, said officials there had no choice but to impose another shutdown in the face of limited hospital capacity and rising cases across the country, while German officials imposed an array of restrictions.
Much of Europe, Mr. Macron said, is facing a similar situation, “overwhelmed by a second wave that we now know will probably be harder and more deadly than the first.”
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded a similar note.
“It is completely clear that we must act, and act now, to prevent a national health crisis,” she said.
But young people are being disproportionately hit, economically and socially, by lockdown restrictions. Many are resorting to internships, living with parents or returning to school to ride out the storm.
Years of job growth has eroded in a matter of months, leaving more than twice as many young people as other adults out of work. The jobless rate for people 25 and under jumped from 14.7 percent in January to 17.6 percent in August, its highest level since 2017.
Europe is not the only place where younger workers face a jobs crunch. Young Americans are especially vulnerable to the downturn. In China, young adults are struggling for jobs in the post-outbreak era. But in Europe, the pandemic’s economic impact puts an entire generation at risk of being left behind for years, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Young people are overrepresented in sectors where jobs are disappearing, including travel, retail and hospitality. Graduates are facing unprecedented competition for even entry-level positions from a tsunami of newly laid-off workers.
The European Union is trying to cushion the blow by encouraging businesses to recruit young people. But such programs may have little impact as Europe confronts its worst recession since World War II.