Older workers face higher unemployment than younger for first time in 50 years: study
Older workers are facing higher unemployment rates than younger individuals for the first time in half a century, according to a new study released Tuesday by the New School university in New York City.
The study found that while people of all ages have suffered from unemployment issues stemming from the pandemic, there was a higher concentration of unemployment rates among middle-age workers, according to the Associated Press.
Workers 55 and older lost their jobs sooner and were rehired slower than their counterparts in the 35 to 54 age bracket, according to the study.
The data marks the first time since 1973 that workers 55 and older have faced higher job losses than younger workers for a period of six months or longer.
New School researchers on the study estimated that 1.4 million workers over 55 years of age lost their jobs in April and remain unemployed.
The figure does not include those who become unemployed in April and left the workforce.
The older workers’ unemployment rates from April through September were at 9.7 — a 1.1 percent difference compared to mid-career workers at 8.6 percent.
Rates were compiled using a six-month rolling average, and unemployment among older workers was far worse for those who are black, female, or lack college degrees.
Every recession since the 1970s has had lower unemployment rates than midcareer workers. Due to the nature of COVID-19’s sometimes fatal outcomes in older adults, that precedent has been turned on its head.
Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, told the AP the pandemic posed a unique risk for older workers.
“The higher rate of unemployment for older workers might be because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for employers to shed older workers and not fear investigation by the labor department,” Ghilarducci said.
Ghilarducci added that due to the pandemic, “age discrimination rules are not being tightly enforced.”
“Employers, fearing economic instability, may want to get rid of relatively more expensive workers and take their chances with training new workers when the economy recovers,” she said.
The unique situation for older workers could threaten the retirement of many who are dependent on their final years of employment for savings and benefits.
Researchers with New School have recommended that Congress boost and extend unemployment benefits for older workers, disincline withdrawals from retirement accounts, drop Medicare eligibility to 50 while creating a federal Older Workers Bureau to promote older workers’ welfare, the AP reported.