4 Types of Older Workers That Have Quit Amid the Pandemic

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The Great Resignation remains in full force, with 4.3 million workers quitting their jobs in December, according to the latest data from the U.S. Labor Department.

Statistics show that older workers make up a surprising number of those who have left their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, among workers ages 55 and older, the likelihood of leaving work over the course of one year jumped 7.6%, according to a recent analysis of data by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. That marked a 50% increase over the pre-pandemic rate.

While some workers quit their jobs to take on another role elsewhere, others are leaving the workforce for good.

The following are four types of older workers who were more likely to leave their jobs during the pandemic, according to the Center for Retirement Research.

1. Women

Senior woman working in coffee shop
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Older women were slightly more likely than men to leave work during the pandemic. Compared with the pre-pandemic trend, there was an 8% increase in the number of older women who left their jobs over the course of a year.

That edged out the 7% increase in older men who have left the workforce during the COVID-19 era.

The fact that older women are quitting more frequently than older men mirrors a larger trend in which women of all ages are leaving jobs at a higher rate than their male counterparts, according to data.

2. Asian Americans

Older woman working
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Most racial groups have seen an increase of around 7 percentage points in the number of older workers leaving the workforce compared with pre-pandemic era norms. But the increase among senior Asian Americans has been much larger, around 12%.

In April 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly half — 48% — of the Asian-American community’s 615,000 unemployed workers had been without jobs for at least six months, significantly higher than the percentage for workers of other racial groups.

Experts attributed the trend to the fact that low-wage industries populated by disproportionate numbers of workers of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage did not bounce back as quickly as other parts of the economy. It’s possible that a fair number of these workers who were older simply decided to leave the workforce for good.

3. High school graduates

Senior worker
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Among older college graduates, the rate of workers leaving the workforce rose 6% compared with pre-pandemic rates. However, the rate was much higher among those with only a high school diploma: 11%.

4. Those who cannot work remotely

Older black worker driving a forklift
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Among older workers, the ability to work remotely was the biggest factor dividing workers who quit from those who stayed at their jobs.

Workers who had the ability to perform their jobs remotely quit at rates that were just 4% higher compared to the pre-pandemic era. By contrast, that number jumped to 10% for those whose occupation did not lend itself well to remote work.

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