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Latest Jobs Report Flashes Warning Signs for Older Americans

Last week, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the December 2020 jobs report, closing the book on a turbulent year that left millions of American families in severe economic distress.  Unfortunately, the December numbers were headed in the wrong direction, with the economy down 140,000 jobs. 

At AARP, we are particularly concerned about job losses among older Americans.  While the 6% unemployment rate for Americans age 55+ is below the national rate of 6.7%, a closer look analysis highlights two disturbing trends. First, while the overall unemployment rate has declined or held steady since October, it has increased each month for the 55+ — from 5.5% to 5.8% to 6.0%.  The data also shows history repeating itself when it comes to older job seekers landing a new position.  During and after the Great Recession, we saw that it took a lot longer for older Americans who lost their jobs to find new ones. The same thing is happening now.

The December jobs report shows that those aged 20 to 44 have, on average, been unemployed for 18 to 23 weeks, while Americans age 45+ have been unemployed on average for 24 and 28 weeks. And, close to half (45.5%) of job seekers age 55+ had been out of work for 27 weeks or more compared to 35 percent of job seekers 54 and younger.  

While the medical experts are hopeful that the rollout of vaccines will allow us – and our economy – to return to something approximating “normal” later this year, the negative economic impact on millions of 50+ Americans will likely be long-lasting.  Before the pandemic, a growing number of older Americans were working past traditional retirement age . . . some because they wanted to, but many because they needed the paycheck to make ends meet. 

Whatever the reason, AARP is committed to helping the 50+ adjust and succeed in today’s challenging job market.  Through a dedicated section of, we offer a host of tips and resources, including an interactive resume advisor, a job board, and a list of more than 1,000 organizations that have pledged to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.  We even host online career expos that offer learning, networking, and support.  An event coming up on January 28 focuses on ideas for finding flexible work since we know many AARP members and other older adults want to explore part-time or seasonal, as well as full-time, opportunities.

And, of course, AARP will keep fighting against age discrimination in the workplace and for economic relief, food assistance, and other programs that are absolutely vital to help those in need.  There’s no magic wand that can undo all the damage from 2020, but we are deeply committed to making progress toward a better future. 

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