Older workers constitute a significant portion of the U.S. labor force. In 2020, nearly a quarter of American workers were over the age of 55, with another 20% approaching older worker status. Automation, globalization, trade, climate change, and the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic all cause job displacements. Whatever the cause, experience has shown that when older workers are displaced, they are likely to be out of work longer. And if they find a new job, they are likely to replace less of their former wages than their younger counterparts. Low employer demand for older workers and age discrimination appear to be factors in these outcomes, leaving older workers at great risk of long-term unemployment, becoming discouraged and dropping out of the workforce, or taking an involuntary retirement.
The outcomes for older dislocated workers should be a serious concern to policymakers and the general public. A new research brief from the Heldrich Center, Helping Older Workers Cope with Dislocation in an Era of Pandemics, Automation, Climate Change, and Economic Uncertainty, examines the challenges faced by older workers who have been displaced from their jobs, looks at the weaknesses of current U.S. labor market programs to assist older workers, and offers recommendations for policymakers for rethinking policies and programs before the next economic downturn.
The brief was written by Heldrich Center senior researchers Maria Heidkamp, Director of Program Development, and Kathy Krepcio, Executive Director.