In every recession since the 1970s, older workers (ages 55+) had persistently lower unemployment rates than mid-career workers (ages 35-54), partly because of the benefits of seniority. In the current recession, this trend has flipped. In each month since the onset of the pandemic, older workers experienced higher unemployment rates than mid-career workers, representing a recovery gap in age. Older workers’ unemployment rates from April through September were 1.1 percentage points higher than mid-career workers’, 9.7% as opposed to 8.6% (six-month rolling average). For comparison, at the peak of unemployment in 2010 following the Great Recession, older workers’ unemployment rate was 1.2% below that of mid-career workers, 7.0% compared to 8.2% (six-month rolling average).


Davis, Owen F., Fisher, Bridget, Ghilarducci, Teresa, and Radpour, Siavash (2020). “A First in Nearly 50 Years, Older Workers Face Higher Unemployment than Mid-Career Workers.” Status of Older Workers Report Series. Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New School for Social Research.