Almost half of the long term unemployed are aged over 50

Wednesday 18 February 2015

As ONS release new data showing that unemployment is still edging down but the latest Saga Employment Report reveals that unemployment amongst the over 50s remain static, and almost half(47.2%) of the long-term unemployed are aged over 50.

Almost half of the long term unemployed are aged over 50

Commenting on today's unemployment figures, Saga's Paul Green commented:

"Whilst unemployment for the under 50s has reduced, for the over 50s the numbers out of work remained static this month. In addition, the over 50s continue to make up a disproportionately high number of those stuck in the spiral of long-term unemployment with almost half (47.2%) of all of those classed as long term unemployed aged 50 and over. 

“As the election campaigns kick off, we would like to see the political parties confirm their commitment to finding ways to value older workers. Saga believes that reducing employers National Insurance for companies taking on those who are stuck in long-term unemployment would help reduce this tax on jobs, and encourage employers to take another look at those who have the greatest difficulty in getting back into work."

 Key points of Saga's monthly employment research:

  •  The UK-wide unemployment rate (for persons aged 16 and over) during October–December 2014 fell to 5.7% from 5.8% in the three months to November 2014.
  • The unemployment rate for those aged 50-64 remained unchanged at 3.6% but fell for the 65 or older age group to 1.5% from 1.6% in the three months to November 2014.
  • The total number of people classed as long-term unemployed[1] in the UK has dropped over the last 12 months to 632,000 in the three months to December 2014, a fall of 208,000 people from the same period a year ago.
  • However, the number of over 50’s who have been unemployed for over 12 months has declined at a slower rate than for other age groups over the last 12 months and the share of unemployed workers classed as long-term unemployed remains higher in the over 50’s age group. Over the three months to December 2014, we calculate that:
    • 47.2% of unemployed 50-64 year-olds were classed as long-term unemployed.
    • 31.6% of unemployed workers in the 16-49 age bracket were classed as long-term unemployed.
    • Whilst it’s great to see that the overall picture of long term unemployment is starting to look a little less bleak, the analysis suggests that more could be done to help the many over 50s who find themselves out of work and, at an older age, appear to find it harder to get back into employment.
    • This is particularly important given that Figure 4 shows that redundancy rates for the over 50s have remained above other age groups in recent years.
    • Not only are the over 50s finding it harder to get back into work, they have seemingly been more likely to find themselves made redundant.
  • Figure 1 illustrates that the contribution of the over 50s to the job market has been steadily rising. The total number of workers in the UK grew by 6.0% between the start of this Parliament in May 2010 and October–December 2014, with employment for the over 50s rising faster than for younger workers. Over this time, the number of workers aged:
    • 65 or older has risen from 801,000 in the three months to May 2010 to 1.127 million over October–December 2014, a very pronounced rise of 40.7% or 326,000 employees.
    • 50-64 has risen from 7.319 million in May 2010 to 8.129 million over October–December 2014, an increase of 11.1% or 810,000 employees.
    • 16-49 has increased by just 2.9% or 616,000 employees, from 21.024 million to 21.640 million.  
  • The number of workers who are 50 or older has been rising steadily. At the start of the current Parliament in May 2010, some 8.120 million UK workers were 50 or older. That figure had risen to 9.256 million over the three months to December 2014.
  • Figure 2 illustrates that the over 50s’ share of UK employment is continuing to rise but the pace of this growth has slowed this year. Over the three months to December 2014, we calculate that:
    • 70.0% of all employed people were 49 or younger, down slightly from 70.2% one year previously.
    • 26.3% of all employed people were in the 50-64 age bracket, up from 26.2% one year earlier.
    • 3.6% of all employed people were 65 or older, up from 3.5% 12 months before.
  • Employment is not a zero-sum game and the over 50s have not been squeezing young people out of the job market. The number of employed over 50s is far lower than the number of employed 16-49-year-olds. Over October–December 2014, there were 8.129 million employed 50-64-year-olds, versus 7.937 million one year earlier. This compares to 21.640 million employed 16-49-year-olds over October–December 2014, versus 21.276 million over the same period in 2013.



[1] A person is defined as being long term unemployed if they are unemployed for one year or more.

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