Older Workers Hit Hard by Shutdowns

Shutdowns and business closures have put a strain on younger adults trying to hold on to their jobs while caring for children at home but older employees are also under pressure.  To slash budgets, many employers have retired older members of their workforce early and unexpected unemployment can eat into retirement savings and may leave older adults jobless even after the crisis has passed.

According to a recent AARP report, the unemployment rate for Americans over 55 rose sharply from 3.3 percent in March to 13.6 percent in April.  The actual number might be higher as the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys employers in the middle of the month, leaving out the latter half of April. 

Because older employees often draw some of the highest salaries, they may have been targeted early in the pandemic’s shutdowns.  When people start to return to work, older adults may find it difficult to land jobs with the same earning power they once held. “Seasoned” workers who cannot conduct their jobs remotely may fear returning to the workplace and exposing themselves and their families to the virus. But when health care coverage is attached to a job, going back to work may not be a choice. For working older adults with underlying health conditions, the dilemma between protecting well-being and earning a living is further intensified.

What can older adults do to prepare for an uncertain future? Using this time to learn new technology is vital not only in order to stay connected with friends and family, but it is also likely that when restrictions loosen, telecommuting will continue for many workers.   Older workers can and should also highlight their experience which can be invaluable in helping companies solve problems and pivot following a crisis. Some experts are saying that the possibility exists that new jobs and job categories will emerge as we all adapt to new realities, so having transferable skills and an open mind will be important.

Keep networking, adapting to new circumstances and moving forward.  For more information about finding work during the pandemic, follow this link to a recent PBS News Hours report.