At the age of 22, and having recently recovered from a series of mental and physical health issues, life was finally starting to look up for William Kukkonen. He was in a new job at a school canteen, earning money and supporting himself. Then the pandemic hit.
"I was in my new job for about two weeks and then we were forced into lockdown," Mr Kukkonen said.
He was not eligible for JobKeeper, and ended up on JobSeeker. While he is now back at work, it's not as much work as he needs to be independent.
"All the canteens have to keep up enough hours for people on JobKeeper, but it's not busy enough to require extra people. If more hours were available - yes, I would take it."
For now, plans to move out and pursue further study have had to be put on hold.
His is just one of thousands of stories of young Canberrans hit disproportionately hard by the economic impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns. While all age brackets have suffered during the downturn, the arrival of the virus has proven a particularly cruel blow for many young people trying to get a start in their chosen careers.
According to a recent report from the Productivity Commission, young people's employment outcomes were already declining between 2008 and 2018.
That report found young workers increasingly faced lower wages, and ended up in part-time or casual jobs instead of full-time work. Many of the jobs available were low-paid and required fewer skills.
Young Workers Centre ACT manager Arian McVeigh described this as a "pandemic" of insecure and casualised work.
"[Young workers are] disproportionately represented in underpaid jobs. They don't have security, don't have certainty," she said.
20-year-old Charlotte McKenna, an international security and criminology student at ANU, found herself stood down from her job at Hoyts. Both of her housemates lost their jobs at the beginning of COVID-19, and soon they found themselves worried about how they would pay the rent.
"It was like I was in limbo, wondering if it was worth staying [in Canberra] and paying rent ... or going home to my parents [in Melbourne] not knowing how long I'd be staying there," she said.
Ms McKenna decided to stay in Canberra, look for new jobs and apply for Centrelink support.
"I ended up getting a job at Woolworths ... I was earning more money than I did at Hoyts for a while," she said.
After receiving JobKeeper and returning to Hoyts, she quit her job at Woolworths to manage her workload as she grappled with online studying.
She now says that COVID-19 has stopped her from being involved in experiences that would have improved her job readiness.
"I wanted to start applying for internships, do more projects, volunteering, get more involved ... I had all that ready to go at the start of the year. COVID-19 changed all of that," she said.
ANU demographer Professor Nicolas Biddle said he expected outcomes to become worse for young people due to COVID-19, but some of the Productivity Commission's findings might not be as concerning as they seem.
"Part of the decline in employment and income has been due to higher rates of education participation," he said.
"One would hope that that investment in human capital early on in a young person's working life will pay dividends into the future."
Face2Face Recruitment managing director Kate Prior said the job market during COVID-19 was not as grim as expected, noting an increase of jobs in aged care, nursing, transport, agriculture, call centres, and administration.
"A lot of people are more willing to do jobs they haven't considered before," Prior said.
"A job is a job right now, when you get an opportunity you can always look for something different."
23-year-old Len Gordon completed their Masters of Science Communication Outreach at ANU in 2019 and is among those still looking for a way into a career.
"I got a lot of emails saying we are no longer looking for people in this position because of coronavirus - we'll keep you informed later on," they said.
"A lot of job prospects have dried up because the field I want to do involves doing science shows for kids. With schools not running and wanting to minimise interactions, those jobs aren't as common at the moment."
Mx Gordon is receiving JobSeeker payments, alongside assistance from their parents. They live in a sharehouse and while JobSeeker has covered rent, the landlord was also willing to help.
Despite the tough job market, they say they will persist in pursuing a job in science.
"It feels disappointing giving up on all the work I've done for a science career."