Workers Over 50 Are The New 'Unemployables'

over 50 job seekersBy Annalyn Kurtz

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 percent 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 nonprofits. "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?"

More: Over 50? What To Expect From A Job

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.
Related story: Millions expect to outlive retirement savings

Older workers also have the longest bouts of unemployment. The average duration of unemployment for workers ages 55 to 64 was 11 months as recently as January, according to the Labor Department. That's three months longer than the average for 25- to 36-year-olds.

Given these circumstances, many workers can't help but think age discrimination is a factor. AARP's Public Policy Institute surveyed unemployed baby boomers in 2010 and 2011. While 71 percent blamed their unemployment on the bad economy, almost half also said they believed age discrimination was also at play.

More: How To Fight Age Discrimination

About 23,000 age discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in fiscal 2012, 20 percent more than in 2007.

Proving discrimination is next to impossible, though, unless it's blatant. "It's very difficult to prove hiring discrimination, because unless somebody says, 'you're too old for this job,' you don't know why you weren't hired," said Michael Harper, a law professor at Boston University.

Plus, employers may have rational qualifications that are inadvertently weeding out older candidates. Recent education and technological skills are two areas where older workers are more likely to come up short compared to the younger competition.

"When there's a large supply of unemployed workers, employers can afford to be choosier, and they're opting for workers they think are less expensive or more recently trained," said Sara Rix, senior strategic policy advisor for AARP's Public Policy Institute.

That's a hard reality for older job-seekers. "When you're at 55 or 60, you've had a lifetime of work. You've played by the rules, and the rug has been pulled out from you," Rix added.

Age Discrimination in the Corporate Setting

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Andy Candy

so, the solution is vodka. lol, like the youngsters say.

May 22 2014 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andy Candy

job listing asks for 7 to 10 (or maybe 7 to 12) years experience, plus a degree.

that eliminates all applicants over 40.

i finally figured that out after 5 years.

sales may be one of the few areas where older job applicants can carve out a place.

May 22 2014 at 4:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Love AOL and all their stories of doom and gloom for older workers. This is coming from another American corporation, like Ebay, all the banks, and most of the tech giants, and retailers, that sent millions and millions of jobs overseas (to enrich their CEO and investors.) So it's just maudlin that they're constantly posting these stories. AOL needs to look in the mirror...

August 26 2013 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you are over 50 and unemployed consider SUICIDE You are more likely to be killed by Al Queda than get a Job if you are Over 50. State and Federal employees are the Worse.

August 20 2013 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been searching for three months - was told - actually in an email - that I seemed like I was just going to retire in 5+ years, so they didn't want me. I am not giving up, but I read that email from time to time, and it just worries me that I have no chance. Also, I face the problem that they want to know my previous salary - and they won't hire me as they can't pay me as much - even though I am willing to take less, they won't offer me less. I haven't given up, but I am certainly depressed. I have one girl thru college, one in, and one still to go. I feel I have let them down. I have to beat this depression and find work.

April 06 2013 at 10:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mark.coats's comment

If you have a copy of that email, you have the basis for an age discrimination lawsuit. Someone actually wrote that to you? Wow. Considering most young hires stay for around 5 years anyway, I can't believe they'd be that short sighted.

August 26 2013 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Age discrimination is a product of the merchandise society in which we live. Prior to the 1947 the idea of teen ager was a young adult. There aped the manners of the elders and dress like their elders and went to work like their elders who were there to advise and influence.
As teenagers were exploited of mercantile reasons though music a age relate schism developed. TEEN acted like x while the older acted like Z. Then cam the technology revolution of the 1980' to today. Many companies are staffed by young people who have a very different work ethic. 60 and 70 hour work weeks working with the advanced technology of the day has left many older workers behind. It would be like being commanded by Alexander the Great. Many older workers are seen a dinosaurs. And unable to participate in the velocity of modern business.
To overcome this one must put the best face forward. As well as emersing in the technology of the present future. Yes, even plastic surgery and role models that bridge the gaps. Age prejudice does exists but it can be countermanded by showing values where the new generation many not have the knowledge. Being seen as a resource for interface between the old and the new.

March 05 2013 at 1:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I was out of work almost 2 years in 1992-93. I was 55 at the time. I am also a highly skilled and experienced IT person.

To make a long story short, I became convinced age discrimination was at play in my case. I send out close to 1000 resumes and i received a dozen of so replies. So I reworked my resume to make it appear that I was younger than I actually was. Guess what? I started getting replies to my job inquiries.

Bottom line - yes age discrimination exists. It is blatent. Our government knows about it, and choses to ignore it. I

March 04 2013 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

at age 52 I too got word I will be laid off the end of March. This story just scares me to death. I am certainly looking NOW, but the job market is dismal at best. Lord help us all. :((

March 03 2013 at 7:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peach!'s comment

Know that you won't be alone. Know that there are others who are surviving; hope you get unemployment or something to sustain you; No need to panic, you are coming late to the party that has already long begun, at least you know some of what to expect; get your priorities in order,if you have not done so and pay off all unnecessary expenses, like auto, credit cards, anything that will drain. Start downsizIng you life now, you have the rest of this month and pray you have already begun before posting here. Find either a church, or someone you can talk to because this road is not for wimps. The job market, unless what you do is vital is worse than dismal. Be prepared for perhaps a lengthy unemployment period. Good Luck to You

March 03 2013 at 10:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Age descrimination is nothing new. And, with the job market being so lousy and companies looking to cut costs including payroll, the generally higher paid older worker is in jeopardy. Unless you are in a field that is highly in demand or where they are having trouble finding qualified candidates, finding a job for anyone these days is tough. And, it's always been tougher if you are older (meaning 40 +). This article doesn't say anything new that wasn't always true.

March 03 2013 at 1:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I once discriminated an older applicant when I was about 46. He was a bit over 50, maybe mid 50's. The bulk of our workforce was between 16 and 21. I thought a younger person would be able to better handle the children we employed. I admit that was one of the dumbest things I ever did. I'm now in my mid 50's and as fate would have it, am unemployed and have been for over 1 1/2 years. Can't find a job and I know age discrimination exists since I once did it. NEVER will I do that again. Yes I dye my hair and took off my resume, my first good job I had that I was at for 16 years so it doesn't date me. I still bring it up sometimes when I'm in an interview because I'm honest and that's where I first made my mark and grew up. I also like to brag about it since it was such a great job. I'm also willing to start at more than a third less pay that I used to make to get my foot in the door and prove my worthyness. I have always gave 110% and never call out unless i'm absolutely dieing. I've worked like slave for many companies that I've been on salary with. Work 6 or 7 days a week at least 12 hours a day. Work was my life and I would always treat the company as if it was my own. I am still willing to do that but can't find a job to do it at. Granted it also works against you as far as your family life goes. I've recieved stress and pain for that also, but at least I always had a paycheck to keep a roof over our head. Yes I agree the younger workers do not care anymore...they call off a lot and don't want to stay late to get things done and help the company progress. This is why a lot of companies go under. Nobody gives a $hit anymore. Well I'm not giving up and just try to put more time into searching and honing my quest for employment. I don't want to go back to school and only have a high school diploma. I might pick up some more experience in some computer classes that only last a few days, but that's all I'm willing to do as far as school. I didn't go to college because I just wanted to go to work and I do realize that was abig mistake but There's no way I want to go back now. My last 4-5 jobs I learned through experience and can do the same type of job better than any college grad because I care and will put in the time to get things done.
Well I said my piece and feel better. Best of luck to all and don't give up. You can do it better than the youngsters they are hiring nowadays and you know it. Someone just has to take the chance on you.

March 03 2013 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fandbbob's comment

Sometimes Karma can be something else. Now, to be on the other end is not such a good feeling. Once you dye your hair, looking the same because the notion that doing so shaves years off is a myth. Good luck with what you are doing, perhaps you will fair better than the person you once judge too old to work with the young people. Those who earned college degrees up to PhDs are suffering, the line is long. See all this insight about younger workers you now have gained???? Too bad due to your experience now, you now fall in the same pot as those of us who are in the thick of things simply because we followed a path that now leads to a very deep and wide swamp.

March 03 2013 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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