Older Workers: No Longer Needed?

Over 50 and Out of Work documents the devastating impact of the Great Recession on 100 older Americans, and a May 2011 report issued by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University sets their individual experiences in a broader and more ominous national context.

The report, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, catalogs the shocking impact of the “Great Dislocation of 2007-09” on older workers and the economic consequences for the country. The full report “The Job Dislocation and Re-employment Experiences of America’s Older Workers During the Great Recessionary Period of 2007-2009” can be read by clicking here.

“I feel like we’ve become a throwaway generation,” said one unemployed older worker we met during the course of our interviews, and the center’s report offers support for her apprehension.

Twelve of the report’s key points about the three-year Great Recession:

• 2.685 million older workers (55 and older) were permanently dislocated from their jobs.

• The dislocation rate for older workers was 9.3 percent, the highest rate ever recorded for this age group.

• One out of every seven older worker in the private for-profit sector lost his or her job.

• One out of every nine older men with up to the Associate’s degree level was dislocated.

• Close to one out of every five older workers holding a blue-collar job were permanently laid off.

• In January 2010, nearly 75 percent of all older workers were working or actively looking for work. Almost 50 percent of them were unemployed.

• In January 2010, only 37 percent of older, dislocated workers had found new jobs. This rate is the lowest re-employment rate for older workers ever recorded.

• The unemployment rate for older workers (which is broken down by age groups in the report) is twice as high as those experienced by older workers during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

• In January 2010, 65 percent of older workers were unemployed, underemployed or mal-employed (not able to fully utilize their skills and education in their new jobs).

• In January 2010, all re-employed dislocated older workers earned, on average, $105 or 13 percent less per week than they had been paid previously.

• The overall aggregate loss in earnings among older dislocated workers was $73.5 billion or $27,364 per dislocated worker.

• The estimated annual fiscal loss to the United States (from cash and in-kind transfers paid to dislocated workers plus the lost annual federal and state tax receipts) is $38.07 billion or $20,376 per dislocated worker.



Colette said:

I find myself in a similar situation here in South Africa. Spent my life working, paying taxes and being an honest, law abiding citizen but now in a desperate situation with no-one to turn to. If I owned a house or had the means to rent a different property I would start a commune for boomers. I am learning internet marketing which seems to be the only avenue left but it's taking a long time as there are many pitfalls. If/when I find success I will do another post here to try and help others.

Vicky said:

I am 61 and have been out of work for over 2 1/2 years. I was a legal secretary with 25 plus years of experience. I have looked for steady work every day since I lost my job. I can't tell you how many applications and resumes I've submitted and in all that time have had maybe 6 interviews and of course never got one of those jobs, even though the interviews all went well. I'm registered with numerous agencies and have only gotten temp jobs on occassion. My unemployment is up, my savings and 401k are gone. I am living on charge cards and am at the end of my rope. I have no family to fall back on. If I file bankruptcy I will lose everything and if I don't file I'll still lose everything. I've always been a responsible person, I worked, paid taxes, always paid my bills on time with a great credit rating and now everything has fallen apart. I've even emailed the whitehouse several times about this deplorable job situation in this country and only once received a response - a generic email with my name plugged in saying that our government understands the hardships we are going through - Really??? I cannot live this way anymore but have no idea what to do. I am terrified and so very depressed. There is no where to turn and nobody seems to care about all of us who are struggling so. We aren't wanted. I can't sleep, break out in tears at the drop of a hat and just in general cannot enjoy anything that use to bring me happiness. How did things in this country go so terribly wrong? What kind of society has this become? My heart goes out to all of you in the same situation. We all did the right things but no one cares.

Giuliana said:

There are two things I don't understand about the so-called "Great Recession". First of all, why does the government insist on calling it a "recession", when we all know it was (and still is) a full-on DEPRESSION? Secondly, why do they keep insisting it "ended in 2009?" It may have slacked up a bit for some, but for the most part it is STILL GOING ON. That said, I worked steadily, going from one job to another with NO break in employment, from 1970 until the beginning of 2014. I paid into Social Security. I paid into Unemployment. I paid my taxes. When I realized that 2 years of college wasn't really getting me anywhere, I went to night school and learned a trade - medical transcription. Back then it seemed to be a wise choice. We were in demand, work was steady, and it paid enough to live comfortably on. My last decent medical transcription job paid in the neighborhood of $45,000 a year. In 2007, that job was in jeopardy, not only due to the Depression (let's call it what it really is), but also due to greed in the health care industry. Our work of producing highly-detailed medical documents from voice dictation was on the chopping block at most hospitals, because those managers and CEOs wanted ever more and more money for themselves. So, my job was outsourced to a middleman industry - the medical transcription service provider. At first that seemed to be a good thing for medical transcribers like myself, as it was for the most part a remote job done on a home computer. But greed prevailed, and the Depression worsened. Our work was already being shipped offshore, but during these recent hard times, most of it is now going to India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and even some to China. As a result, our wages (paid by production) dropped precipitously. I was then only making $12,500 per year at that point. That's quite a drop from $45K! American transcribers like myself have been hanging on by our fingernails, just barely eking out a living on these wages, by working 7 days a week, working more than one job, and working countless unpaid hours of overtime. Still, many of us working full-time were on food stamps and other public assistance. Many of us have lost our homes. I escaped that dead-end hamster-wheel (I thought!) when an on-site hospital transcription job (almost unheard of in this day and age) presented itself. I jumped on it for all I was worth, commuting 2 hours each way to the hospital, and giving 210% to that job every single day. That job allowed me to begin to catch up on my credit card debt, to have some minor work done on my 17-year-old car, and to get health & dental insurance. I even started to save a little money, which was a huge relief to me because I'd depleted my savings in order to pay my rent while working for the transcription service. Then, the bottom dropped out from under me and my windfall job, as that entire transcription department was laid off with NO warning. This couldn't have come at a worse time in my life, because I am now just about to turn 65. I've applied to any job I'm qualified for (which isn't much anymore). No one wants transcription done, and certainly no one seems to want a Medical Language Specialist such as myself. Everything in the job ads in my area wants BILINGUAL or TRILINGUAL applicants. Unfortunately for me, I only speak my native tongue: English. (Whoever thought that being an English major in high school and college would ever turn out to be a handicap? I sure didn't.) There are no low-wage jobs I can afford to take, because they're all so far away that I'd spend most of my earnings on gasoline just to get there. Anything that pays enough to afford the gas wants a B.A. degree, preferably in THAT particular field. They also want 1-3 years' experience in THAT particular job, in THAT field. There are so many applicants to every single open job, that employers can pick and choose, and they rarely (if ever) choose an over-60 applicant. I see little point in spending any more money on adult school, college, or trade school. Then there's that little unwritten discriminatory act that is practiced universally in the U.S: Age discrimination. Even though I can easily pass for 20 years younger than my chronological age, they always have a way of finding out. As soon as they've got your driver's license or social security number, they know your age. Then you are conveniently "under-qualified", "over-qualified", "not a good fit", "live too far away", and a myriad of other excuses why they won't even interview you, let alone hire you. I appear to be FORCIBLY RETIRED, at this point in my life. My unemployment runs out at the end of the summer. I can't afford to move, because I get my apartment for half-rent in exchange for gardening and handyman/woman duties. I don't have much saved in my old 401K, which I STOPPED FUNDING after it tanked on 9/11, and tanked again in 2007. Pointless waste of money. I don't really believe it even exists anymore, and doubt I'll ever see that money. That's why I planned to work far beyond age 65, preferably to 75, if I could. But I guess our government in the good old US of A (which is 100% corporate-controlled, and all about the almighty dollar, and not about the people it was supposed to serve) doesn't want us old 50-plus fogies working at all. That should prove to be interesting in the coming decade. This country is going to be swamped by a veritable tsunami of healthy, able-bodied 65+ year-olds who can't even get a job at McDonald's, and whose social security (if it's even available 10 years from now) might pay for rent. Or groceries. But not both.

Maria said:

Wow... this situation really shakes whatever self confidence you may have left! I was feeling alone but was glad to read my contemps postings. I worked for AT&T for many* yrs. then they downsized so I took time to pursue creative interest a few years. NEVER dreaming getting another job would be like a crazy fantasy!!! I am actually on food stamps now , one month from handing over my condo keys bcuz I can't make the bills. I live a very frugal life. It is very discouraging job hunting even with a positive attitude. Frankly I'm scared. Good luck to all of you out there in my shoes. BTW I may be 53 but I am totally young at heart. Keep the faith!

Mark said:

Medicare reimbursement is so low for procedures done by respiratory therapists (RRT) in the clinical setting that many hospitals have closed their RRT departments. Good Luck I am a fellow RRT and have been looking for 4 years. I am so broke I do not have funds to pay for my license fees. Thank God I am a veteran because they provide me with a place to live.

Paul said:

I too am 59. I have a MS in Accounting, over 30 years of experience in several industries and a CMA. I am an excellent presenter, educator, manager and strong team player/worker. I have been searching for meaningful work since April 2008, yet have found nothing except low-paying jobs. I currently teach one night per week, run my own sales business (I am NOT a salesman) and move cars for a local rental car company. I have had some interviews that appear promising only for me to learn that I am "number two" to the person who got the job. I keep praying that something will come through, but I am getting more depressed each day. My wife and I have to scrape every month to get rent, car payments, and even food. Imagine, we have to have a discussion over whether or not we can spend $4.00 on a couple of ice cream cones as a treat! We don't take vacations. We can't afford to go out. All we do is work and hope and pray. I could understand if my resume was crap or if I had not been a high achiever in the past. I don't know where to turn and right now, ending it all looks pretty damn good! I know that I have so very much to offer an employer, if I could just get a chance to show them. The sad part is, we don't make enough money to pay the rent or eat, yet in our state, we make too much money for any type of state assistance. I am hoping that this posting will give me some type of cathartic benefit, if not some reasonable advice. I see, all to unfortunately, that I am not alone. Can we band together to help make things change for us? If so, how could this happen? I am almost at the end of my rope ...

Tim said:

Hey everyone, good morning from Phoenix , AZ! I'm 53, my wife and I reloctaed from Texas in January of this year. She was able to land a position at Amazon.com, in the shipping department, she started out as a temp. and was hired. Me, I have been offered positions at about 1/2 my past salaries, no benefits, and I must use my phone, laptop and vehicle with a bonus, I can deduct my gas expense on next years tax return....YAHOO!!! thanks so much!!!! I think it's a issue of supply and demand, to many highly skilled people like ourselves and not enough postions to go around. I'm relistic, I look at myself and think, "why would I hire me?" If I had a choice of a younger kid or me , I would choose the kid. You can mold that kid into the person you would like - the employee you need, but me...I might want to mold the position offered to fit my needs and skills, my comfort zone.. Therefore I might be tough to manage, also I might only work for them maybe10 years and the kid, they might get 30 years out of him/her. Then if we look at salary, the kid will start out at a lower pay. I would be insulated at the same salary and I might keep on looking for a better postion, so that makes that potential employer reluctant to choose me. I GET IT!! So....I went out and bought a hot dog cart and started working it locally... I'm not saying "go into business for yourselves", but I do encourage you all to look at our situation and just come to peace with it and maybe say to yourself " it is what it is" and move on. A door closes and a window opens, stop beating on the door and start looking for that open window! Think out side the box! ( like you never heard that one before).... Good luck!

Dave Henning, Waco Texas said:

So many of you have it right! Jean mentioned something that my Dad told me back in the late '70's... he was in his fifties then. He'd mentioned how hard it was for him to find a job (he was retired, but his employer didn't offer any retirement). He called it a "soft bigotry" against older people. I don't know how often y'all come to this site, but "Vivian" said something troubling. Vivian, if you're out there, I'll pray for you. I myself have been out of work for over a year and a half. I'm a computer and network tech, but my skills are dated. I DID enroll in a VA-sponsored retraining program. It's called VRAP, and you have to be between the ages of 35-60 and unemployed. You also have to be a Veteran. My schooling starts late August. I agree with many of you: reading these stories IS heartbreaking! My unemployment ran out, I rarely get computer-repair jobs and ended up with a friend who took pity on me. I give her money when I can. I had to swallow my pride and get food stamps to help make ends meet here. The other boarder in the house has a checkered past, but is a nice guy. I pray that something comes up. Nobody has to ask how old you are, just look at your resume and then IF you get called in they take a look at you... you can see it on their faces- an HR person HALF your age. I don't give up easily, though. I have school coming up, and I don't care if I'm just a greeter at WalMart, I WILL see this through. Don't be disheartened, my friends. We're all in this boat together. As the saying goes, "misery loves company"! I'll be checking in from time to time. You can also reach me at drh0857@yahoo.com Keep the faith!

jean said:

I do think older people are being treated un fairly in job market these days! I do not understand the mentality of the company owners? Young people jump from job to job now a days! We just want something steady!

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