KXAN Austin

Older workers face challenges in workforce after COVID-19

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As businesses start to reopen, one age group looking for work may feel shut out of the job search.

“We know that unemployment hits older people 50-plus-on to a larger group at all times never mind during the pandemic like this,” said Susan Reinhard with the Public Policy Institute at AARP.

Before the pandemic, nearly 5 million Americans ages 55 years old and up worked in retail, and another 1 million worked in the food industry. Many lost their jobs when businesses were forced to shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With businesses allowed to slowly reopen, older Americans may face age discrimination in their job search.

“There are challenges,” said Paul Fletcher, chief executive officer of Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area.

The nonprofit provides no cost recruitment and employment services to businesses and job seekers in nine Central Texas counties including:

“About 15% of the unemployment claimants that filed for unemployment benefits in our area are over 55 years of age,” said Fletcher. “For a lot of older people, they haven’t had to re-enter the workforce before. They’ve been in the job for a long time, and then coming back in today’s workforce is very different than it was when they might have you know went into the workforce 10, 15 or 20 years ago.”

There are resources catered to help that age group. Worforce Solutions offers virtual workshops, teaching “how to get a job when you’re over 40,” and other resources on where to look, and what not to put on your resume to avoid age discrimination.

“You avoid indicating the year you graduated high school or things like that on your resume so you have a better chance of getting through some of those applicant tracking systems,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher encourages job seekers to not wait until unemployment benefits run out to enter the race to find a job.