Extended Unemployment and More Challenges Older Workers Face in 2021

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As if the current strain of the coronavirus circulating the U.S. wasn’t enough, the governor of Colorado just announced the first confirmed U.S. case of a new strain of the virus. And while vaccines began rolling out in mid-December, only a few million people have been vaccinated compared to promises from U.S. officials to have 20 million people vaccinated by the year’s end. It seems America can’t catch a break and pandemic-related concerns for older workers aren’t letting up.

Read: 10 Essential Jobs Across America With Big Paychecks for Employees

Because of their age, older workers face much harsher consequences than most other age groups during the pandemic, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In some cases, those consequences are particularly bleak, effectively hobbling these older workers for the future.

Here are four challenges those ages 55 and older face as we head into 2021.

Last updated: Dec. 31, 2020

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Working From Home Is Not an Option for Many Older Workers

Before the pandemic, approximately 75% of workers ages 65 and older were unable to do their jobs from home, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, over 66% of workers ages 55 to 64 could not work from home either.

Workers who are 65 and older have five times the rate of hospitalization due to COVID-19 and 90 times the rate of death, as compared to 18- to 29-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And those who are between 55 and 64 have four times the rate of hospitalization and 30 times the rate of death when compared to the younger age group.

Not having the option to work from home means that older workers have to choose between staying safe and potentially risking their health by continuing to work outside their homes.

Find Out: Before It Became the Norm, Which States Had the Most Remote Workers?

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Companies Looking To Cut Costs May Inadvertently Target Older Workers

It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused financial hardships for some employers. And unfortunately, if a company is looking to cut costs, higher-paid employees — which are often more experienced and older workers — are the first to go, according to Tony Lee, vice president of editorial at the Society for Human Resource Management, as reported by The Hill.

“Salaried older workers are facing the pressure of a down economy. If a company is planning and thinking, ‘Who do we want in this job? Who can do this job? Can we replace Bill who makes $100K a year with Steve who makes $60K a year?’ They’re going to look at that seriously,” Lee said.

Years of experience coupled with higher salaries can mean the axe for older workers when companies are looking to save money.

Read More: 50 Best Cities for Job Seekers Over 50

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Older Workers Are Remaining Unemployed for Longer Periods of Time

Unfortunately, during the pandemic, people 55 and older are remaining unemployed longer than their younger counterparts. For example, while the overall unemployment rate declined from 6.9% to 6.7% in November, the unemployment rate for both men and women ages 55 and older increased from 5.4% to 5.8%, according to AARP Public Policy Institute data.

Once an older person becomes unemployed, it will likely take longer to get another job than it will take for a person under 55.

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Older Workers May Have To Retire Earlier Than Planned

Challenges like job loss and difficulty finding a new job amid the pandemic can, unfortunately, lead to an even greater challenge for older workers — forced retirement.

The financial fallout from the pandemic caused many people’s retirement account balances to nosedive. Additionally, being unemployed for weeks and months on end can cause people to dip into their retirement funds and deplete balances even further.

Bringing retirement account balances back to pre-pandemic levels takes time and monetary contributions, which makes it difficult for older workers to catch up. Plus, not being able to find suitable work may lead to discouragement, and older workers may go ahead and decide to retire before they planned, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Older workers who have suffered a significant financial loss and retire earlier than planned will likely have less money to fund their retirement.

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