Future employment outcomes are believed to be strongly determined by an individual’s past employment experience (or lack thereof). We investigate the relationship between individuals’ labour market experience over the decade covered by NIDS (2008-2017) and their contemporary employment outcomes under the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown as captured by NIDS-CRAM waves 1 and 2. Restricting to a balanced panel of prime-age (25 to 50) individuals who have employment status information across all periods of NIDS and NIDS-CRAM, we assign individuals to three groups on the basis of their employment history: the stable employed, the transient employed, and the persistent non-employed. We find that pre-lockdown employment status in February 2020 correlated strongly with this employment history. Nonetheless, a substantial proportion (45%) of the historically persistent non-employed were employed going into lockdown. This group was found to be young and thus more likely to have previously been engaged in education rather than labour activities. This highlights the need for care in interpreting employment history for individuals with different ages. Under lockdown, those with transient employed or persistent non-employed histories were more likely to have lost work and to be excluded from employment opportunities relative to the historically stable employed, with job loss consistently the highest for the persistent non-employed in both April and June 2020. Job gain also followed clearly differentiated lines, with a third of the historically stable employed who were without work in February finding employment by April, relative to only 8% of the persistent non-employed (although this discrepancy was less pronounced between April and June). Those with the least recorded employment were mostly younger, rural African women, while among the stable employed (who were all much more likely to be male), those who lost work in the lockdown were more likely to be African and have a rural background relative to those who retained work. These findings suggest that people’s long-term employment histories have been influential in determining their employment outcomes during COVID-19, and that understanding these histories can tell us more about the capacities and needs for intervention of those who have been affected by the lockdown.