Companies hiring, but not older workers

By Reuters
Posted June 28, 2010 at 6:10 a.m.

Companies are starting to hire again, but many are turning their backs on older job seekers.

The unemployment rate for those in the 25 to 54-year-old age group has fallen from a record high of 9.2% in October to 8.7 percent in May. But the nationwide unemployment rate for older workers — while lower than that of younger workers — has barely moved since hitting a record high of 7.2 percent in December. It’s currently 7.1 percent.

“All the gains we’ve seen from the peak last fall to now, they’ve gone to people less than 55 years old,” said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts also said the unemployment rate for older workers may be artificially low. Older workers are more likely to become discouraged and stop looking, thus no longer being counted as unemployed in the government figures.

The divergence in job prospects for older and younger workers is new. In past recessions, the unemployment rate for the different age groups generally moved in tandem, said Shierholz.

But the problem for older job seekers could get even worse. That’s because they are much more likely to be among the long-term unemployed, which will make it more difficult for them to eventually find a job.

In May, 60 percent of older unemployed workers had been out of work six months or more, while 43% have been without a job more than a year.

Sandra Kay Barnes, 60, of Daytona Beach, Fla., has been out of work nearly two years and her unemployment benefits just ran out last week. She lost her job as an assistant to an insurance broker when the firm she worked at downsized and laid off its most recently hired workers, she said.

Despite sending out thousands of job applications since then, Barnes said she has been able to get only a handful of interviews and no offers.

“I’ve been told I’m in the top five applicants for jobs, but I never get a callback. It’s terrible that you’re looked at as a second class citizen,” she said, adding that she’s worried about how she’ll manage her expenses if she can’t find a job soon since she is two years away from collecting some portion of Social Security benefits.

The earliest a person can collect Social Security is 62, but is not the full retirement age.

Still, John Migliaccio, director of research for the MetLife Mature Market Institute, said there has been a pick up in the percentage of 62-year olds who have started drawing their benefits, even though that will result in a 25% cut in benefits they’ll receive the rest of their lives.

Migliaccio said many people don’t have a choice because they can’t wait until they turn 66 to receive full benefits.

There’s also evidence that more older Americans are withdrawing funds from already depleted retirement accounts in order make ends meet, sometimes suffering tax penalties when they do so.

“There’s a large number of involuntarily retired,” said Tim Driver, CEO of, which specializes in helping older workers find jobs.

Driver said part of the problem facing older job seekers is a worry among employers they will face legal problems should they need to lay them off or fire them in the future. He said because of that an increasing number of employers are only taking on older workers on a contract basis.

But Driver said some businesses do see the advantages of hiring older workers.

Besides the opportunity to get the experience and lifetime of skills that older workers bring with them, they are actually more likely to stay put for longer than younger workers, thus reducing job turnover and the costs associated with hiring and training.

Driver said “the most analytical” managers have figured this out. Unfortunately for older workers, it’s not common knowledge just yet.

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  1. Apres Ski June 28, 2010 at 8:20 a.m.

    We all get “birthdays” whether we want them or not. What happens to the “young” worker as they continue in the workforce??? They’d better get those websites ready, perfect those hobbies & make sure their companies have the right LLC/LLP after their names. When you hit a certain number, the legal claws come out.

    Older workers are finding out, some the hard way, the internet is their last bastion of hope for work by marketing themselves & their newly minted website companies as CEOs. Here’s where the rubber will meet the road & some older workers will have to compete against their old employers and show them how it’s done. Let the competition & the games begin . . .

  2. Karl June 28, 2010 at 9:16 a.m.

    Pardon me, isn’t age discrimination ILLEGAL in hiring? Employers only dare to do it because these laws aren’t enforced. This article is telegraphing two messages, whether wittingly or not: Employers, it’s ok to discriminate, you won’t get punished. Older workers, give up, be docile and know your place. What is the policy at Tribune Company toward hiring older workers? If you don’t believe in discrimination, then stop publishing articles that, if not countenancing it, present it as an option? Saying it came from Reuters is not an excuse. The Tribune made the decision to run it.

  3. Marco June 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Im not feeling sorry for them. At least they were able to have a decent paying career. Many of the younger workers are being hired to the same job at an adjusted 30% less than the boomers were paid at the same age (1970s)for the same job. This is even more true for Men. Did the author just not have time to look up some salary statistics in between penning insults to younger workers?

  4. Matthew June 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    So older people still have a lower unemployment rate? Shouldn’t the article then be “Older workers still have more jobs than their younger counterparts”. It sounds like you are advocating for a bias instead of being happy that the job market is balancing itself out.

  5. still hopeful June 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I know this is a few days late. Sorry to see such a debate over this. The sad thing is there are a lot of us that are older who have been working well over 30 years who have by no fault of their own find themselves out of work and being turned away from every kind of job out there be it in their field or a minimum wage job. After paying taxes all these years we find ourselves close to homeless. By the way, for the record my car is 9 years old and paid for, and simple is the only thing I have lived for a long time. Going out for a Burger is a mere memory. Not everyone is living the high life. Just trying to survive. There are a lot of folks that don’t want to have to ask for any help.

  6. Chuck Mella June 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    These unemployment figures are wrong. It is widely acknowledged that unemployment among men 45 and older is over 40%. That’s 4 in 10, people.

    And the Senate has not renewed our unemployment stipend and is threatening to dump us on the current labor market with no aid of any kind. Merry Christmas, everybody.

  7. IJMA June 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I would like to know the names of the companies that do not hire older workers so that I can avoid doing business with them.

  8. NAFSBUC June 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    To top it off, in Illinois, an older worker cannot get unemployment if they are on Social Security so they are really out of luck

  9. Independent June 29, 2010 at 6:14 a.m.

    Seems that it would be reasonable for the Federal government to institute a tax credit as an incentive for businesses to for hire older workers. By working, it would discourage many of them from collecting Social Security early. Their working would also increase the amount of income tax collected from them as well as defer the outlay of Social Security payments as long as possible.

  10. ATT Discriminates June 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    AT&T is one of the companies and they discriminate for both AT&T jobs and Telecom contracting jobs. SInce AT&T is practically a monopoly for work in some locations they have literally closed many people over 40 out of work in their Industry. Even though AT&T appears to have a lot of diversity awards they are discriminating against those over 40.

    Here are the facts. AT&T decided they did not want to rehire anyone who took the CIC package or VRIP . Note the CIC Package said a past employee could return without any penalty after 6 months. Though the contract is violated by AT&T since they have the power of systems and access to the employees SSNs. AT&T took the social security number for each past employee who took VRIP or CIC and blacklists these SSNs in their automated hiring system called Etemp. AT&T’s Telecom contractors must use Etemp to pair potential contractors with AT&T hiring managers. Those who took CIC and VRIP get calls from headhunters for CONTRACTING (not just employee positions) which they can not apply for cause they must give their SSN and the system tells the contracting house that this candidate is not a fit for AT&T at this time with no business reason attached. I have no idea how to stop them asap from doing this though I do know that the executives claim not to be able to find skilled workers in America and bring in lots of employees from over seas instead.

  11. DON ZEH July 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    A great man once said to a ARMY he defeated .” MALICE FOR NONE CHARITY FOR ALL “. Just because these brave soldiers lost the war this great man showed hart for the defeated . We unemployed at no fault of our own are defeated . Yes we need help to rebuild . The Republican party is spiting in the face of this great man . He was the first REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT .His name was ABRAHAM LINCOLN… No man in the republican party today has any compassion for 1.3 MILLION AMERICANS .AMERICANS who worked honest jobs . Employers found ways to rid the older , some people with needs . They called it layoff . Now we hunt for jobs THAT DO NOT EXIST . I will never consider myself a part of the Republican party ever again . I hope 1.3 MILLION AMERICANS NOW UNEMPLOYED vote against the republicans .They have no compassion and only care about control instead of helping hurting AMERICANS . YES WE NEED HELP .