55+ unemployment doubled since Great Recession

On Thursday we posted some frustrating data looking at the struggles of teens trying to find work in the recession.

Those kids are the future of Minnesota’s work force and we should be concerned the average jobless rate for 16- to 19- year-olds last year topped 21 percent.

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There’s another group, though, that should not be forgotten. Minnesotans 55 and older have seen unemployment among their peers double since 2007.

Here are numbers compiled by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (click on the chart for a larger view).

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Seventeen thousand Minnesotans 55 and older were unemployed on average in 2007 just before the Great Recession. Last year it hit 34,000. Most of those job cuts came to people 55 to 64 years old.

The data are fascinating on a few fronts. In the good years leading up to the recession, the 55 and older labor force swelled in Minnesota. At the same, unemployment rates for those workers were incredibly low — averaging just 1.8 percent in 2005 for those 55 to 64.

By 2010, however, the jobless rate for that age group was 6.1 percent.

That’s a huge jump, accelerated in the recession that began officially in December 2007.

Yes, the jobless rates of older workers were lower compared to other age groups.

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But these are Minnesotans who, for the most part, had a limited number of prime income earning years remaining before retirement.

“Can’t retire now” became an uneasy refrain we heard from many in MPR’s Public Insight Network after the stock market plummeted and wiped out retirement savings.

Overlooked is the unemployment suffered by people close to retirement who lost their nest egg and then lost the means to rebuild it.

Take a look at the data above. Got a different take? Post below or contact us directly at MinnEcon.

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Thanks to DEED’s Rachel Vilsack, who helped us with the data. She wrote a detailed piece on this issue back in April 2009.