Out-of-Work Texans 55+ Struggle to Find Work, Brace for End of Extra $300 Federal Unemployment Benefits

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Out-of-work Texans are bracing for June 26, when they’ll lose an extra $300 a week of federal unemployment benefits.

On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott announced the state will opt out of any additional federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor says the decision was made in an effort to help unemployed Texans get back to work and to stop fraudulent unemployment claims. Abbott added that with ample job openings, federal help was no longer necessary.

However, some older workers tell NBC 5 they are having an especially hard time finding someone who will hire them.

When it comes to unemployed Texans struggling to find a job, there is a segment that has been hit particularly hard in the COVID-19 pandemic. Older workers, including those in professional fields.

“I’m 55-years-old and I’ve been searching for a job since late October 2020,” said a North Texas man who asked not to be identified out of concern it might affect his job prospects. “Several of my colleagues around my age are going through the exact same thing.”

This worker says he spends up to five hours a day searching for a job. His search began with jobs equivalent to what he did previously working in healthcare support services. He says he has even applied for jobs that less than half of what he was making.

And still, nothing.

A recent student by the New School University found that nationally, unemployment rates for workers 55 years and old exceeded mid-career worker unemployment rates during the pandemic.

Older workers lost jobs faster and have returned slower, according to the findings.

Black, females, or those lacking a college degree had higher rates of job loss and were more exposed to retirement risks, according to the study.

And now, the governor’s move is increasing worry among older workers who are still searching for employment.

The governor and the Texas Workforce Commission say there are currently as many jobs available in the state as there are people on unemployment.

“It’s just about matching the right people to those right jobs,” said TWC spokesman James Bernsen.

Some older workers tell NBC 5 they feel they’ve faced discrimination related to their age when attempting to get back into the workforce and are often told: ‘You look like you’d be a great fit. We’re just worried you’re overqualified for the position you applied for.’

The TWC was not immediately able to provide statistics about the percentage of unemployed workers 55 and older or how many of the available jobs are considered entry-level, but does say:

“A lot of those jobs that are out there are above $15/hr. Most are not entry-level,” said Bernsen. “Now, the tricky thing for older workers is that they’re well beyond that in terms of what they need. So that might be an issue that they, in their particular field, might have a hard time finding a job.”

Older workers like the man who spoke with NBC 5 fear their shrinking savings account coupled with the end of the extra weekly federal benefits will drive them to dip into their retirement funds.

The TWC urges all unemployed Texans to take advantage of the many resources available, including: 28 workforce development centers across the state, job training programs and the agency's website. Click here to learn more about the Senior Community Service Employment Program for low-income Texans 55 and older.

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