The number of unemployed people aged over 50 in the UK has increased by a third in the past year, according to analysis of official figures.
There are 91,000 more unemployed older people than there were 12 months ago, the biggest percentage increase of all age groups and significantly more than the national average increase of 24%.
While the unemployment rate is significantly higher for those aged under 24, analysis shows that it is among older workers that there has been the greatest percentage increase.
Lawrence Wragg, 54, from Sutton Coldfield, was made redundant from his role as a project manager in March this year. Since then, he has applied for dozens of jobs but has only had a handful of interviews.
“My salary and age have definitely been a barrier to me finding a new job during the pandemic,” he said. “I find Zoom interviews challenging because I find it hard to convey a sense of personality.”
The data from the Office for National Statistics, analysed by the over-50s job site Rest Less, shows that unemployment levels for people aged 18-24 increased by 104,000 in the past year - or 25%. For those aged 25-34, the increase was 74,000, or 28%, and for those aged 35-49 years old, the increase was 51,000, or 19%.
Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said that while the unemployment rate was significantly higher for those aged under 24, the youth unemployment rate was high a year ago before the pandemic arrived.
“There is no doubt that we are facing a youth employment crisis right now but less well documented is the fact that we are also facing a long-term unemployment disaster amongolder workers,” he said.
“Not only have we seen a rapid rise in unemployment in the over-50s since this time last year but our previous research has shown that once unemployed, this group is significantly more likely to remain in long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts,” he added.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, urged the government to increase back-to-work support for older workers. “It’s of great concern that many older workers appear to have been losing their jobs at such a difficult time, especially as they may face additional barriers returning to work compared to younger workers,” she said.
Earlier research by the Centre for Ageing Better and the Learning and Work Institute found that about 377,000 extra older workers – one in 10 male, and eight in 10 female workers in their 50s and 60s – face a significant risk of losing their jobs when the government’s furlough scheme is wound down next year.
Additional analysis of Department for Work and Pensions data by the Centre for Ageing Better found that over-50s were less likely to bounce back from unemployment than any other age group: just 35% who lose their job return to work “quickly”, with 29% remaining unemployed for more than 12 months.
Dr John Philpott, a labour market economist, social commentator and former director of the Employment Policy Institute, an independent public policy thinktank, said: “The popular view that the Covid-19 pandemic has … hurt the young far harder when it comes to jobs [but that] does not tell the entire story.
“With the level of job vacancies far below the pre-pandemic high, jobseekers of every age are struggling to find work and endemic age discrimination is making it doubly difficult for unemployed people aged over 50 whose number is climbing fast,” he added.
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