The number of unemployed over 50s has increased by a third in a year, according to new analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics from Rest Less, the jobs and community site for the over 50s.

Rest Less analysed the latest Labour Market Statistics issued by the Office of National Statistics* and found that the number of unemployed over 50s has increased by 33% year on year – the biggest percentage increase of all age groups and significantly more than the national average increase of 24%.

Whilst the unemployment rate is significantly higher for those aged under 24, the youth unemployment rate was high a year ago before the pandemic arrived. Looking at the rate of change in those becoming unemployed over the last year, Rest Less’s analysis shows that whilst unemployment levels have increased significantly amongst all age groups, it is older workers who have seen the greatest percentage increase.

This is of particular concern as previous research from Rest Less shows that once unemployed, older workers are likely to remain in long term unemployment than their younger counterparts.

Table 1: Increase in Unemployment Levels By Age Group, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2019

unemployment levels by age group 2020

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented: “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 amongst older workers. 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, they are significantly more likely to remain in long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts.’

‘In the year that the state pension age moves to 66 and Universal Credit Claims amongst the over 50s have surged to more than 600 thousand – more needs to be done to tackle systemic ageism in the workplace to help these talented, life-rich workers find meaningful employment.

‘The over 50s are a group of highly work and life experienced people who offer huge value to employers: not only do they have decades of work experience under their belts but they also bring an important set of life skills to the table as well as attributes such as loyalty, resilience, empathy and an ability to think laterally.”

Dr John Philpott from The Jobs Economist, commented: “The popular view that the Covid-19 pandemic has harmed older people more than younger people in terms of ill health but hurt the young far harder when it comes to jobs 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. It’s vital therefore that government measures to combat the economic impact of Covid-19 do not overlook the plight of older jobseekers.”

Case Study: Lawrence Wragg, aged 54 from Sutton Coldfield

Lawrence was made redundant from his role as a project manager in March this year. Since then he has applied for dozens of jobs – from project manager roles to warehouse roles – and has had a handful of interviews (on zoom which he has found very challenging when it comes to conveying a sense of personality). Comparing his experience of job hunting through the pandemic with two years ago when he was last in the jobs market, also following a redundancy, Lawrence says life is much harder this time around: not only have salaries dropped but employers are looking for more. A project manager role where two years ago would have commanded a salary of £55k is today being advertised for £37k.

Lawrence believes his salary and his age have been a barrier to him being out of work since March. The rejections have had an impact on his sense of self-worth and he says with a laugh that his male pride has been dented. There is a serious note to his voice when he says that he is used to being the main breadwinner in the house, making the decisions on where and how the money is spent.

Lawrence lives in Sutton Coldfield with his partner and two children. Lawrence’s daughter graduated from university last year with a degree in Theology and has been unable to find a job. She receives Universal Credit and Job Seeker’s Allowance. Lawrence’s son is in sixth form.

This week Lawrence accepted a new role – on a salary is 30% less than his previous role. He starts next week.

Notes to Editors

*Rest Less’s analysis is based on the following data from the Office of National Statistics: Employment, unemployment, economic activity and inactivity by age group (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Aisling Gray
Head of Communications
Phone: 07900996065
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About Rest Less

Rest Less ( launched in December 2018 and is a membership community for the over 50s designed to help its members get more out of life. Rest Less has thousands of jobs available on its site from progressive age-friendly employers across the country. Rest Less is the leading site in the UK to offer flexible opportunities to work, volunteer or even start a new career path, specifically targeting the rapidly growing over 50s market.