Report highlights ‘U-shaped’ jobs impact of pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the biggest annual fall in employment for older workers since the 1980s, according to a new report.

The Resolution Foundation, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, examined the economic impacts of the pandemic on workers over the age of 50, and how periods of unemployment can affect their prospects upon returning to work.

It found that the crisis has created a “U-shaped” employment shock, with older and younger workers affected far more than those in the middle of the age distribution.

Although workers under 25 have seen by far the largest fall in employment in the past year (3.9 percentage points), the fall in employment among those aged over 50 has been twice as big as for those aged between 25 and 49 (1.4 compared to 0.7 percentage points).

And the report noted that the cost of losing your job can be particularly high for older workers.

After losing work, older workers take the longest, on average, to return to employment – with fewer than two-thirds returning within six months – and they see the biggest drop in earnings.

Some older workers who became unemployed during the pandemic may end up having to either retire earlier than they planned to, thereby reducing their income in retirement, or work for longer to make up for lost earnings.

The think tank called for more retraining opportunities for older workers.

“The government must ensure that older workers are not forgotten in the design and implementation of schemes created in the wake of the crisis to help people back into work,” said Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation.

Alex Beer, welfare programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, added: “We urge the government to offer tailored support to older workers, including opportunities to retrain, adequate support to find new jobs and, for all workers, greater rights to flexible working.”