Study: older Mainers, Black workers were reemployed at disproportionately lower rates during COVID
A recent study shows that women, younger workers and those earning low wages were more likely to lose a job during the beginning of the pandemic in Maine.
And older Mainers, as well as Black and African American workers, experienced the lowest rates of reemployment in the year following the initial COVID-19 shutdowns.
That's according to new research from the Maine Department of Labor, which reviewed unemployment insurance claim figures and quarterly wage data from summer 2020 through the end of 2021 to understand how displaced workers reentered the workforce during the first year of the pandemic.
The study shows 56% of unemployed Mainers over the age of 65 had reentered the workforce by the end of 2021. Erin Fenton, an economic research analyst with the Maine DOL, cautioned that the reemployment analysis is limited, but multiple factors may have contributed to the disproportionately lower reemployment rates for Mainers over age 65.
"Things like risk of exposure to COVID, prevalence of long COVID, things like that that may have also contributed," Fenton said. "But as these groups of workers are aging, certainly retirement within this subset of claimants could have contributed."
By contrast, more than 80% of 45-to 54-year-olds, 76% of 35-to-44-year-olds and 75% of 55-to-64-year-olds had found work by the end of 2021.
The study also shows that a disproportionate number of Black and African American workers had regained employment by the end of 2021.
About 64% of Black and African Americans in Maine were reemployed after the initial pandemic layoffs, compared with 74% of white workers during the same time period.
Mark McInerney, director of the Maine DOL's Center for Workforce Research and Information, said that historically marginalized groups often experience disparate economic outcomes.
"When the economy is in a recession, and unemployment rates tend to be high, they tend to be significantly higher among Black or African American workers," he said. "And during periods of economic expansion when unemployment rates are low or falling, we still see disparities in outcomes."