The New School’s Retirement Equity Lab reported in early August that 2.9 million workers aged 55 to 70 had left the workforce since March – meaning they were neither working nor actively looking for a job – and predicted that 1.1 million more could do so by November. “They are leaving the workforce twice as fast as they were during the Great Recession” from 2007 to 2009, said Dr Ghilarducci.
In July, more than 9 percent of workers over 65 were unemployed, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Using a broader definition, including those employed part-time who would prefer full-time positions and those who do not work for other reasons, the proportion increases to 16.5% – a sharp drop from the spring, but still a sobering figure.
Unemployment has risen even more for older women, black and Latino workers and those without a college degree, Dr. Johnson found. “In good times and bad, unemployment is always higher for people of color and people with little education,” he said. These disparities “become even more pronounced in times of recession.”
Researchers cannot yet say what role health issues have played in the displacement of older workers. Only about a third can work from home, Dr Ghilarducci said, so fears of contracting the coronavirus in the workplace may prevent some from returning to work. Employers are more likely, she said, to rehire younger people faster, who they say will cost less in health benefits and stay on the job longer.
Industries where older workers have been hit the hardest include construction, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, education and other non-professional services, the Urban Institute found. In leisure and hospitality, over a third of workers over 55 have lost their jobs.
Among them was Becky Schaffner, 64, who had worked at the Omaha Marriott since the hotel opened 39 years ago, most recently as an administrative sales assistant, earning $ 16 an hour. “I loved my job,” she says. “Talk to people everywhere. Take care of their needs. “
Ms Schaffner was fired along with most of her colleagues in mid-March, then laid off in July. Now that the $ 600 federal supplement is over, his unemployment rate hits $ 338 per week, making it difficult to cover the mortgage on his home in Fremont, Neb.