Work, Aging and Retirement, 2020
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Abstract These are unprecedented times, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts public health, social interaction, and employment attachments. Evidence to date has been about broad shifts in unemployment rates as a percent of the labor force. We draw on monthly Current Population Survey data to examine subpopulation changes in employment states across the life course, from January through April 2020. COVID-19 downturns produced disparate life-course impacts. There are increases in unemployment and being out of the workforce at all ages, but especially among young adults, with young women most at risk. Intersectional analyses document conjoint life-course vulnerabilities by gender, educational attainment, and race/ethnicity. For example, Black men aged 20–29 with a college degree experienced a 12.4 percentage point increase in being not in the labor force for other reasons (NILF-other). Individuals with less than a college degree in their 50s and 60s were more likely to become unemployed, regardless of race. And more non-college-educated Asian men in their 60s and 70s reported being retired (6.6 and 8.9 percentage point increases, respectively). Repercussions from the pandemic may well challenge assumptions and possibilities for older adults’ working longer.