Gen Z wants security more than a dream job. A look at their finances shows why.

 With a recession looming next year, some Gen Zers are postponing the search for their dream job. Instead, they're working to ensure they have a job at all if an economic downturn comes. 

A look at their finances and economic projections shows why.

US credit card debt rose the most in 20 years over the last quarter, per the New York Fed, and while all age groups saw upticks in missed payments, the biggest increase came from 18 to 29-year-olds. 

"At this point, I can barely scrape together enough to stay afloat," one Gen Zer who is over $20,000 in debt previously told Insider.

At the same time, experts continue to forecast a recession next year, and there have been high-profile layoffs at tech and media companies like TwitterMeta, and CNN. The environment has some Gen Zers prioritizing job security. 

"Lately, with a lot of people being let go from their jobs, it's opened my eyes to look for a job where I can feel more stable," Giana Gaitan-Naranjo, 21, a senior at San Francisco State University, told The New York Times

In June, the networking platform Handshake asked roughly 1,400 recent college graduates and current seniors what they were prioritizing in their job searches. 74% said job stability, compared to less than half that said working for a known company brand or in a fast-growing industry was very important to them.

Nearly half of the respondents said they were planning to apply for more jobs than they had previously planned. Over a third said they were expanding their searches to more industries, while 18% said they planned to start their job search sooner. 

"I feel uneasy as to how many jobs will actually be available when I graduate," one respondent told Handshake. 

Gen Z may have the most to fear from unemployment

At the same time this survey was taking place, Millennials were on TikTok telling Gen Z that job stability is overrated, and that they should instead spend their twenties figuring out what they're passionate about. 

"Stability in your 20s is an overrated thing, as long as you get your basic needs met," TikTok user Su Hyun Kim said in a video. 

But it's easier to not worry about job security when one's finances are strong and the risk of unemployment is low. It may be wise for Gen Z in particular to prioritize job security, as young Americans are among the individuals hardest hit by economic downturns. 

During 2020, for instance, Gen Z's unemployment rate rose from 8.0% in February 2020 to 26.9% in April, while Gen X's only rose from 2.9% to 11.7%. 

When young people remain unemployed for long stretches, it can have long-term financial consequences. The Census Bureau found the Great Recession cost the average millennial roughly 13% of their potential earnings between 2005 and 2017. 

For now, however, the US unemployment rate remains near the lowest level in 50 years, and there are still over 10 million job openings. If security is what Gen Zers value, then many should be well positioned — at least in the short term — to retain their jobs. 

Although the unemployment rate is expected to tick up next year, some Gen Zers may still have the opportunity to sift through job openings and look for positions with the best job security — so they can be prepared for when a downturn does come.

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