Jobs going to workers over age 55: study
BY FRANCINE KNOWLES Business Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 27, 2012 6:02PM
Job seekers attend a fair in Portland, Ore. AP file photo
Updated: July 29, 2012 4:49PM
Even though many older Americans are still struggling with long-term joblessness, workers age 55 and older accounted for nearly 70 percent of those who’ve landed jobs since Jan. 1, 2010, according to an analysis of national Labor Department data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The number of overall employed increased by a net 4.32 million between January 2010 and May 2012, the Chicago-based outplacement firm’s analysis showed. Older workers accounted for 2,998,000, or 69 percent, of that number — the biggest slice.
The remainder of the employment gains was among 20- to 24-year-olds, who numbered 980,000, and 25- to 34-year-olds at 882,000.
Workers age 35-54 saw job losses as did teenagers during the period.
But even as progress has been made among older workers, the latest data available from the Labor Department also shows the median duration of unemployment for workers age 55 and older last year was more than 34 weeks. That was the longest of any age group and has been a persistent problem during the recession and economic recovery.
“I think it does suggest that there’s kind of a tale of two cities going on right now,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the firm.
For the older, long-term unemployed, those out of work for 27 weeks or more, it can be harder to find work because of age discrimination and employers feeling such job seekers’ skills are less current, he said.
“But at the same time, many companies are looking for these people who have experience that they can bring to bear right away,” he said. “They can plug them in. They don’t have to supervise them or train them as much. Employers are focused on productivity, and they need people who can come in and just get the job done.”
Older job seekers who have landed work haven’t been relegated to low-paying jobs in retail or other service-oriented industries. As of May, there were 6.3 million people nationally age 55 and older employed in management, business and financial operations, and that was up 12 percent from 5.6 million in May 2010, Challenger said. The number working in professional and related occupations increased 10 percent from 6.8 million in May 2010 to 7.5 million last month, he added.
The unemployment rate for people age 55 and older was 6.5 percent last month, compared to 6.4 percent for workers age 44-54, 6.8 percent for workers age 35-44, 8.2 percent for workers age 25-to-34 and 12.9 percent for workers age 20-24.
For older job seekers continuing to have difficulty finding work, Challenger advises when meeting with potential employers that such job seekers avoid talking about what they did 20 or 25 years ago and instead focus on their more recent work history and accomplishments.
“Sometimes people reinforce their age and cause employers to think that they’re probably not that current,” he said. “So focusing on what you’ve done in the last five to 10 years is just crucial.”
And rather than talk in generalities, it’s also important that they share specific examples and experiences that showcase their knowledge and work expertise, he added.
“The more you can have ready examples to tell them about, to demonstrate that you can come in and go right to work with minimal training and supervision, is valuable,” he said.