It is estimated that 20 percent of Americans over 65 are in the work force. AARP calls the hottest demographic in the labor market to be those men and women working not only past traditional retirement age but into their 70s, 80s and sometimes beyond. So among the unemployed are seniors who found irreplaceable meaning in work and/or counted on their jobs to supplement inadequate retirement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent unemployment to its highest levels since the Great Depression, and older workers have been particularly hard hit. Many of those who continued to work beyond retirement age also draw Social Security benefits, and some are now being forced to take their benefits early after losing their jobs when doing so will permanently reduce the amount of benefits they can draw.
If you are already receiving Social Security, are you also eligible for full unemployment benefits? Until recently, the answer was not necessarily. Many states reduced unemployment benefits of those receiving Social Security retirement benefits by up to 50 percent, something called the “Social Security offset.” But after AARP and the National Unemployment Law Project pushed to have these laws overturned, this is no longer the case. In 2015 Illinois became the last state to repeal the Social Security offset.
“These two benefits are not duplicate payments,” the Law Project said at the time. “Older workers who must work or choose to work should not have their unemployment benefits cut or eliminated simply because they have reached the age to qualify for Social Security.”
So do not assume that you cannot draw Unemployment Compensation because you are at or above the traditional retirement age and draw, or could draw, Social Security. If you have lost your job you need to apply for Unemployment Compensation. Similar to Social Security, certain other “unearned” income you may receive, like annuities and investment income, do not count against receiving unemployment insurance. Only earned income affects unemployment benefits.