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.



dorthy said:

Can we create a workforce of very valuable and resourcefull workers over 50?? Why aren't we developing companies or organizations that appreciate what we have in workers in this age group? I think it is ridiculous that we have such a valuable resource of knowledge and skills, not to mention the fact that we also know how to be professional in the workforce, but yet we are overlooked because of the year we were born! I am a very forward thinking 59 year old, and feel that I am completing capable of doing the same work as well, if not better, that my 29 year old counterpart. Of course, if I am criticized for being older, that can be discouraging, but it doesn't change the fact that I can still do the work as good as anyone else. If the jobs don't come to us, maybe we should go to the jobs by encouraging the development of positions for people who have only what age can give them: EXPERICENCE, SKILLS, and KNOWLEDGE. - posted Sept.23, 2014

Serena Ward said:

Hi, everyone. I think you are such lovely people. I really think think your comments are very justified. i wish i knew a way to help. I do understand, and we all deserve better , than this.

Anonymous said:

I can see that I'm still not alone. Finding a job that is 'reasonable' has been very difficult. I left a very stressful nonprofit job that was leaving me in knots, hoping to find another job that I could do. I have a chronic pain condition and have to be careful. I may have done myself in and have been doing project and temporary work for months. I originally lost a job I enjoyed and it took me 2 years to find another one. It seemed that the job market in my area was getting better but it has seemed to go up and down. I'm temping and am proving to be valuable. However, if anything ever happened to my husband, I would be sunk. I have thought about the business route...at least to do some grant writing. Even non-profits are getting volunteers to do grant writing. The killer is that I have gotten appeal letters from non-profit organizations to which I have applied. Some of wanted me to do free grant writing. I'm obviously good enough to volunteer but not good enough to hire? Recently, over a two month period, I went through three phone interviews with an employer and waited two weeks. Finally, after I contacted them to check in, I got an in person interview. That interview was two weeks ago and I'm losing steam. I met the HR person at GE and she didn't ask much...as if to say, you're older and we don't want you. Other interviewers have been rude, condescending on a few occasions and that made me not want to get out of bed! I have even asked if I wanted to continue to live at times. It's the elephant in the room that we can't talk about publicly because we could be 'whistleblowers' but the injustice and psychological effects are real and damaging. Employers want to work on the cheap but the reality is that if we don't have money, we won't buy more goods and that will keep the economy in a standstill. That seems to be the case overall. The job numbers don't say much about the low-paying jobs that people are taking to just get by. Anyway, I'm on State lists and hope to eventually get a job with the State. - posted Sept. 14, 2014

Doris said:

Wow well I see I am definitely not alone but that being said I myself have run out of ideas no resources, at the end of my proverbial rope, and no one cares it seems and I am at the point I just do not know anything else to do..... - posted Sept. 11, 2014

jack said:

Age 55, I lost job 9 months ago, savings now gone, and my very happy marriage to my wife of 25 years, age 47 -suddenly- ends, too. Wife decides she wants to try life alone to experience what she missed out on so wants an immediate divorce--like a switch was flipped. We were the couple who everyone admired, and my loving wife always talked about how lucky she was to have me and our marriage. Only job (thankfully) I found after all these months after applying everywhere is part-time at Home Depot 10.00 hr. Can't afford to move out so I have to live with my wife who acts like a happy stranger, wants me out, and we sleep in separate beds while waiting for her to file--her income is keeping us afloat, so lawfully she can't put me out. An embarrassing, unbelievable nightmare. I am already scared and depressed during these 9 months without work, and the bombshell dropped by my wife quite nearly destroyed me. Now, I'm dealing with anxiety and insomnia, daily. I'm sharing all this so others, like me, sharing similar troubles will know that this happens, and there is a process that helps me get through turmoil: allow yourself to feel all the emotions that comes with this profound stress and loss. Each and every time the emotions come, don't push them away; fully feel and process them. I privately cry, rant, talk, express, and blow off the steam, and I found a low cost county counselor to talk to each week that -really- helps, too. I also force myself to eat and exercise--lost 20lbs from stress. Exercising and grooming, I think, has helped me "present" better when interviewing so I might look less beaten down. I'm quite the actor now at interviews and in general; trying to appear, ok. The worst part is that I will have to leave the expensive state we live in, and find an affordable place to live in another state, and try to re-build my life at 55 and alone--all leading to the worst situation: distance from my wonderful daughter in high school who I love more than life. I'm frightened and lack a plan, but I'm here, I'm going through it, and each day it hurts on many levels, but I'm getting through it, and the pain lessens some each day. - Posted on Sept. 8, 2014

Sue said:

I am reading these posts and on one hand I am comforted to know that it "isn't just me" but I am discouraged because there doesn't appear to be a viable solution to the problem. I am 61, lost my full time position in September of 2012, cannot count the number of applications, editing of cover letters and resume's, and/or interviews. All I have been able to get are temporary dead end positions with no benefits and no hope for future stability in that position. I do not know what to do, my bills do not get paid, (including my house note), I sell what I can and am getting real tired of this. I have no savings left due to unplanned stumbling blocks along the way. Widowed, I have no family other than long distance cousins. I WANT to work. It is all I know. Any suggestions would be appreciated. - posted on Sept. 7, 2014

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.

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