For the older and unemployed, the news is not good

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A recent Labor Department report found that older people who lose their jobs take longer to find work, and that more than 2 million people without work are over 50, according to Midmorning. The first hour of the show featured a discussion about the challenges facing educated, experienced workers looking for a jobs.

It was a harsh dose of reality.

The guests were Katherine Newman of The Johns Hopkins University, and Carl Van Horn of Rutgers.

Here are some highlights gleaned from the program:

-Older workers who’ve left the workforce are adapting to being rejected by employers, but not in a willing way. They just don’t see the opportunity. We have to be careful to conclude they are just closing the book on themselves. What’s really bad: They are at risk of losing their skills so that even when the economy revives, they will not be able to find work. Fifty-five is way too young for this to happen. (Newman)

-Prospects for improvement in the short term are not great. The recession is just too deep. (Van Horn)

-Older, unemployed workers are chewing through whatever resources available to them, just like Roger, a 57-year-old caller who burned through his 401(k) after submitting 400 resumes and two and a half years with no response. Workers are trying to get disability, spending their savings, and retiring early to get Social Security benefits. (Van Horn)

-Forced early retirement will expose older Americans to poverty. People will be having “a much poorer old age.” Some people will be on Social Security for 25 years. This has huge consequences for the whole country, not just for those who are unemployed. (Newman)

-Going back to college for an older America can be both help and hurt job prospects. Some employers think salary demands from an applicant with an advanced degree will be too high so the applicant gets passed by. On the other hand, many employers will see an opportunity to get a very qualified person for much less money than during a healthy economy. Job seekers must be prepared to lower their salary expectations. (Van Horn)

-More education is a very good thing in aggregate, but we should recognize that as a country it will be hard to keep educating people when public higher education institutions are in terrible shape, fiscally speaking, especially when we need them most. (Newman)

-Before you chase a new degree, do extensive research into the real job prospects for the field you want to enter, as well as proof that the school you want to attend is good at job placement. School is expensive, results in lost income, and takes you out of the labor market. (Van Horn)

-The situation for older, unemployed Americans is not impossible. But it will take an extraordinary injection of economic growth to make things better for older workers. (Newman)

-Some employers feel freer to behave badly toward their older employees because they can more easily find replacements. (Van Horn)

-Part time jobs are almost as hard to find as full time jobs but if you can get one, because there is an opportunity for it to expand to full time. Any foot in the door is good. (Newman)

  • Sheryl Skoglund

    Part time jobs are almost as hard to find as full time jobs but if you can get one, because there is an opportunity for it to expand to full time. Any foot in the door is good. (Newman)