Unemployed workers in their fifties are increasingly finding themselves stuck in limbo.
On one hand, they’re too young to retire. They may also be too old to get re-hired.
Call them the “new unemployables,” say researchers at Boston College.
Older workers were less likely to lose their jobs during the recession, but those who were laid off are facing far tougher conditions than their younger colleagues. Workers in their fifties are about 20% less likely than workers ages 25 to 34 to become re-employed, according to an Urban Institute study published last year.
“Once you leave the job market, trying to get back in it is a monster,” said Mary Clair Matthews, 58, who has teetered between bouts of unemployment and short temp jobs for the last five years. She applies for jobs every week, but most of the time, her applications hit a brick wall.
Employers rarely get back to her, and when they do she’s often told she is “overqualified” for the position. Sometimes she wonders: Is that just a euphemism for too old?
Her resume shows she has more than 30 years of experience working as a teacher, librarian, academic administrator and fundraiser for non-profits.
“I’ve thought about taking 10 years off my resume,” she said. “It’s not like we’re senile. The average age of Congress is something like 57. Joe Biden is 70. Ronald Reagan was in his 70s when he was president. So what’s the problem?”
That’s a question on the minds of many older workers.
Take Jill Cummings, 55, who has thought about dying her gray hair to improve her chances of landing a job. Then there’s Tony Kash, 50, who wonders why his 30 years experience in manufacturing and management is no match for 25-year-olds fresh out of college with business degrees.
Nearly two-thirds of unemployed workers age 55 and older say they have been actively searching for a job for more than one year, compared to just one-third of younger workers, a recent survey by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor
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