PLoS One

. 2023 Mar 16;18(3):e0281449.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281449. eCollection 2023.
Perceptions of pandemic resume gaps: Survey experimental evidence from the United States

Regina Bateson 1



As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people found themselves out of work in 2020 and 2021. Going forward, will their pandemic resume gaps be stigmatized or forgiven? In a recent survey experiment in the United States, I find that US adults have negative perceptions of individuals who were unemployed during the novel coronavirus pandemic. When asked to select among fictional applicants for a job opening in the hospitality industry, respondents prefer those who were employed continuously throughout the pandemic. Respondents are about 20% less likely to choose applicants with pandemic resume gaps, regardless of whether they were laid off, stopped working to supervise virtual school, or yo-yoed in and out of employment. Respondents also describe applicants with pandemic resume gaps in more negative terms, perceiving them as less hardworking, less dedicated, less professional, and less qualified than otherwise identical applicants who remained employed. Public opinion toward individuals with breaks in employment during the pandemic matters because it may affect public policy, and because stigma harms job seekers in multiple ways. Furthermore, the results of the experiment are consistent among survey respondents with hiring and managerial experience. While we should always be cautious about generalizing from survey experiments, these findings suggest that people who were out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic may face disadvantages when they return to the labor market.