Older workers face higher unemployment amid virus pandemic

Study finds pandemic poses a unique risk for older workers

For the first time in nearly 50 years, older workers face higher unemployment than their midcareer counterparts, according to a study released Tuesday by the New School university in New York City.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on employment for people of all ages. But researchers found that during its course, workers 55 and older lost jobs sooner, were rehired slower and continue to face higher job losses than their counterparts ages 35 to 54.

It is the first time since 1973 that such a severe unemployment gap has persisted for six months or longer.

AARP said the study bolstered concerns about the economic impact of the virus on on older workers. When people over 50 lose their jobs, it typically takes them twice as long to find work as it does for younger workers, the organization representing the interests of older Americans estimates.

The pandemic “may be something that is pushing people out of the workforce and they may never get back in,” said Susan Weinstock, AARP’s vice president of financial resilience programing.

In every recession since the 1970s, older workers had persistently lower unemployment rates than midcareer workers — partly because of seniority benefits.

But in the current recession, older workers experienced higher unemployment rates than midcareer workers in each month since the onset of the pandemic.

The older workers' unemployment rates from April through September were 1.1 percentage points higher than mid-career workers — at 9.7% versus 8.6%. The rates were compiled using a six-month rolling average and were far worse for older workers who are black, female or lack college degrees.


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