With more than 22 million people unemployed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses over the past year have been widespread. But not all workers were affected equally. People who had college degrees were much more likely to be able to work from home, while those without degrees were more vulnerable to job loss as many businesses closed temporarily.
That disparity was true among older adults, too. According to a new report, during the pandemic the share of workers ages 55 to 64 who were forced to retire rose 5 percent for those without a college education; for those with a college degree, the share fell 4 percent.
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"Older workers without a college degree are losing ground mainly due to a difference in job prospects,” said Owen Davis, a research associate with the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School and main author of the report. “First, they were more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic recession. Second, the jobs available to older workers without degrees provide less flexibility to work from home and therefore carry greater health risks. This one-two punch translates to a higher rate of retirement at earlier ages."
Now that hiring is picking up as coronavirus restrictions are lifted and businesses reopen or expand, job opportunities for workers without degrees are starting to come back. Many of those jobs even offer the potential to work from home. FlexJobs, a website that specializes in remote work opportunities (full access to the website costs $6.95 per month), recently combed through the job postings on its site to identify fields with the most openings that don't require a degree. Many of these positions could be a match for the skill sets older adults already have.
"Remote jobs that tend not to require a college degree do typically require a decent amount of experience, which is why they're a great fit for someone with a longer career history,” says Brie Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs. “Especially if you've had the experience of working remotely over the last year and you can demonstrate to employers that you excel in a remote environment or have remote-friendly professional skills like communication, self-management and a proactive approach to your work, you're well positioned for these types of remote jobs."
The following jobs are examples from the FlexJobs list. Clicking on the job title will take you to a list of current job openings, either on AARP's free Job Board (not all of the openings are for remote work) or the FlexJobs website. Average pay is taken from data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Average pay: $19 per hour
If you have an eye for detail and are good with math, you might do well in this position. Accounting clerks examine bank statements, invoices, accounts payable documents and other reports to ensure that all of the numbers are adding up correctly.
Average pay: $27.10 per hour
While job openings in this field could rise as more workers return to the office, the position is also one that offers plenty of opportunities for remote work. The key responsibilities — managing schedules, coordinating meetings, communicating with clients — are ones that can often be done from home.
Average pay: $20.98 per hour
This job requires strong skills with numbers, with many employers placing a higher value on experience than on a college degree. Work at Home Vintage Experts, which specializes in placing older workers in remote jobs, recently had several openings.
Average pay: $28.58 per hour
If you're good at managing professional relationships, this field offers plenty of opportunities to put your skills to use. Client services managers serve as liaisons between a company and their clients, ensuring that communications are clear and projects meet expectations. This field also offers many opportunities for contract assignments.
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