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Pandemic Has Older Workers Worried About Losing Income

Many fear that layoffs may force them into lower-paying jobs

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In the recession triggered by the pandemic, more than a third of older workers worry about what may happen to them if they're laid off and have to find new jobs, according to a new Economist/YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,500 U.S. adults found that 37 percent of workers 65 and older and 30 percent of those 45 to 64 are concerned that it would be hard to find another job at the same salary and that they probably would have to take a pay cut. By comparison, fewer young people have such fears — just 23 percent of workers ages 30 to 44 and 21 percent of those under 30.

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Among older workers, about half think they could find a new job that pays as well as their current one, but few think it would be easy. Among those age 65-plus, 25 percent think it would not be very hard, and 23 percent believe that it might take some time. As for employees ages 45 to 64, only 20 percent think it would not be very hard, whereas 38 percent think it would take a while.

"Unfortunately, older workers’ fears match the reality of a labor market that was unfriendly to older workers even before the pandemic,” Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist at the New School for Social Research in New York City, who was not involved in the study, said via email. “Research shows that older workers who lose their job take nearly twice as long to find a new job, compared to young workers."

"Even if jobless older workers find a new job, they can expect their new wages to be 23 to 41 percent less than their previous earnings,” Ghilarducci added, citing other research by the New School's Retirement Equity Lab.