Are Older Workers Unwanted?

I’ve run into more than a few stories lately about older workers having a more difficult time finding jobs in the current environment. It appears as if what I originally took to be fluff “human Interest” fillers may be more than just that.

From the NYT:

But unemployed baby boomers, many of whom believed they were still in the prime of their careers, are confronting the grim reality that they face some of the steepest odds of any job seekers in this dismal market.

Workers ages 45 and over form a disproportionate share of the hard-luck recession category, the long-term unemployed — those who have been out of work for six months or longer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On average, laid-off workers in this age group were out of work 22.2 weeks in 2008, compared with 16.2 weeks for younger workers. Even when they finally land jobs, they typically experience a much steeper drop in earnings than their younger counterparts. 

The article goes on to note that even when they do find employment it is often in new careers and at much lower salaries than they previously enjoyed. Many still have high school age children that they need to get through college and the equity markets have poked a big hole in their 401-K’s.

This seems a problem that might only become worse. Aside from diminished personal retirement savings, Social Security appears to be on its way to a much earlier crash than originally projected (link here). The only true fix for that is to extend the retirement age thresholds. If that comes to pass then even more seniors are going to continue to be active participants in the job market.

The problem could place some serious strains on the social fabric if it persists. Having grown up in an age that inculcated fair employment practices into the workplace, I suspect that their patience with real or perceived discrimination might well be short lived. They comprise a formidable voting block that might well bring their weight to bear on political solutions to the issue.

The last thing that we probably need is more government regulation with regard to hiring and employment. The reality is that’s what we will get if business doesn’t mend the problem itself and do so quickly.

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