There are currently more than 4 million Americans who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. This figure doesn’t include those who work part-time or on contracts — or those who, discouraged, have simply stopped trying. Many of them are older and well educated, and their situation doesn’t seem to be improving despite America’s slow crawl out of the recession. While last week’s jobs numbers extolled a decline in the national unemployment rate, the numbers for the long-term unemployed didn’t even budge.
MIT professor Ofer Sharone is tackling this issue head on, piloting a new initiative to help the long-term unemployed (LTU) and gather valuable research on both job-seeking and hiring practices. He is also the author of the recent book Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences. My edited discussion with Sharone is below.
Why is it so hard for older, educated Americans to find jobs after they’ve been laid off?
There are multiple explanations for this, but certainly employer stereotypes and beliefs about older workers play an important role.
One set of stereotypes is directly about the purported effects of age. For example, that older workers are less energetic or less able to use new technologies.
Then there’s a set of employer beliefs about workers who have significant work experience and who have attained higher levels in their former organizations. Here employers worry that the worker may expect a higher salary than younger workers, or may be unhappy taking a position that pays less or comes with less responsibility than their prior job, and as a result will look to leave at the first opportunity or be otherwise disgruntled.
This set of beliefs is not directly about age. But it is almost always older workers who are trapped by perceived “overqualification.”
In my recent book, I describe how, after several months of job searching, unemployed 40+ workers frequently make the difficult decision to adjust their job search to positions that may not use their full range of expertise, and which pay less than their prior jobs, only to be turned down by employers who directly or indirectly convey concerns about overqualification.
One of the cruelest aspects of how our labor market currently works is that one’s past hard work and successes can become the very thing that keeps one from finding a new job.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at