Older jobless workers have a higher rate of long-term
unemployment than any other group. And employer policies end up
discriminating against them. Yet workers age 50 and up comprise
nearly a third of the US workforce. Policymakers must help this key
demographic find good jobs.
March's disappointing employment report reminds us that a strong
jobs recovery is still far from reach. There are still 12.7 million
Americans looking for a job, and certain groups are having an
exceptionally tough time when they go job hunting. The numbers tell
a grim story: Not all jobless Americans are treated alike -
especially older workers, people age 50 or above.
On one hand, older Americans fare relatively well in the labor
market. Last year, they had the lowest average monthly unemployment
rate of any age group (6.7 percent). But that rate is more than
double their rate in 2007 (3.1 percent). And once older workers lose
a job, they are more likely than younger workers to remain
unemployed - which is where the hardship really sets in.
During the recession and its aftermath, the number of long-term
unemployed older workers more than quintupled, the greatest
percentage increase out of all age groups, from 325,000 to 1.8
In 2011, more than half of older jobless workers were out of work
for at least six months. And 4 in 10 older jobless workers were
jobless for a year or more, a percentage no other age group comes
close to. In March, workers age 55 and older had an average duration
of unemployment of about 57 weeks.
Prospects are dim for older workers who lose their jobs. With
commitments like family or a mortgage, less geographic mobility, and
often less capacity to switch career tracks, it's much more
immediately precarious to lose a job when you're older than when
Retirement prospects and later-life well-being can take a big
hit. A national survey of workers who lost their jobs during the
recession found that a majority age 55 and older experienced a
decline in savings while unemployed. Closer to a traditional
retirement age, they then have less time than younger workers to
replace lost savings.
Limited job prospects make delaying retirement a difficult
option, and make forced early retirement more likely.
The job market has changed, too. Older unemployed workers are
more likely to have been laid off from industries experiencing
structural shifts, like manufacturing. And even just the idea of
submitting a resume by email may be unfamiliar to some. That means
older workers may need extra training and resources to land their
next job in growth industries.
If and when they do find new work, the wages often aren't what
they used to be. Research suggests older workers are more likely
than younger workers to earn less than they did in their previous
job, and that older workers who become reemployed may be moving into
low-skill, low-pay jobs traditionally filled by youth.
Compounding these obstacles, evidence shows that employers are
explicitly excluding the unemployed from hiring consideration.
Because this kind of discrimination is more likely to affect those
who have been out of work for the longest amount of time, older
workers are the most likely victims. …