WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The pandemic is to blame for America’s worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression and the commonwealth is especially hard-hit.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry just announced Monday that 1.8 million Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment benefits since mid March. Older workers make up an especially vulnerable population to lose their job during this pandemic.
Their age puts them at a decided disadvantage but a senior advocacy organization is among those who say older workers should not despair.
Pandemic-related business shutdowns and layoffs have taken a steep toll on older workers. Nearly five million employees 55 and older are in retail positions. Another million prepare and serve food – jobs that have been halted to slow the spread of COVID-19. The struggle is real for this demographic.
When asked ‘an older person who loses their job may fear what’s next for me. Will they have difficulty reentering the workforce?’, Susan Weinstock, VP of Financial Resilience, AARP says “Our research shows unfortunately that they will. That when people lose their jobs and they are older workers it takes them about double the time to find a new job as it does a younger workers.”
Workers in their 50s and 60s may have not needed to write a resume in years.
“We can help them update their resumes. Some of them maybe haven’t been on a job interview, never mind a Zoom interview, in years and years,” Christine Jensen, site administrator, PA CareerLink Luzerne County, said.
Even though the Wilkes-Barre office of PA CareerLink Luzerne County is closed, staffers are working remotely providing everything from mock interview experience to how to best sell yourself as a prospective employee.
“They can email their resume to us and we can work with them on the telephone and via email back-and-forth to get that email where it needs, to get that resume, where it needs to be,” Jensen said.
Even though many job opportunities have dried up during the coronavirus crisis, Jensen says nearly 200 employers In her region of service are listed on a state website looking for workers.
“They’re hiring as we speak and they’re authorized to be working as essential companies,” Jensen said.
The takeaway for jobless older employees who aren’t ready to call it a career? Don’t underestimate the job market and don’t undervalue yourself.
“We know that a diverse, multi generational workforce actually makes the workforce more productive, It makes the people in that workforce more deeply engaged and it lowers absenteeism,” Weinstock said.
And while older jobless workers are between jobs, they need to apply for unemployment compensation and the newly enacted pandemic unemployment assistance in Pennsylvania.