More than 25% of NJ jobless claims filed by those over age 55
Between the middle of March and the last full week of April, more than a quarter of new jobless claims in New Jersey were filed by individuals aged 55 and above. Another significant chunk of the initial-claimant pool was filled with residents aged between 45 and 54.
Coronavirus-related business shutdowns and layoffs have taken a heavy toll on older workers here and elsewhere, according to AARP, as many individuals in this demographic work in retail and food service positions that have been halted to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
And if history is any indication, pandemic-induced employment changes won't be a temporary issue for this cohort of workers.
"In past downturns of the economy, it has taken older workers twice as long as their younger counterparts to get reemployed," Emily Allen, senior vice president of programs for AARP Foundation, told New Jersey 101.5.
Age discrimination is a factor, Allen said. And the current crisis could make employers even more hesitant to take on older workers.
"Just because you're 50 and older doesn't necessarily mean that you have underlying conditions or things like that, that would preclude you from rejoining the workforce," she said.
AARP notes many older workers may have not needed to write a resume in years, and could be extremely unfamiliar with today's job market. That could result in additional trouble finding another job.
According to the state Department of Labor, 19% of initial claimants for unemployment insurance between March 15 and April 25 were between the ages of 45 and 54. Another 19% fell in the age range of 55 and 64, and an additional 9% were aged 65 and over.
In a recent AARP survey of workers 50 and over, 30% said they had lost income due to workplace closures or reduced hours.
Beyond receiving unemployment insurance — which currently includes $600 per week more than what New Jersey would normally offer — Allen said older workers can help themselves rebound, in part, by "age-proofing" their resume.
"In this day and age, it's really not about when you did it, but it's the fact that you did it and you have the skills and experience," Allen said.