Layoffs After 50 Cause Severe Losses

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For the average older worker who loses his job, his income a decade later is 15 percent lower than if he had escaped the layoff.

It gets worse: His pension wealth is worth 20 percent less, and his financial assets are 30 percent smaller.

The enormous financial hit delivered to older workers who experienced a layoff sometime during the 1990s was reported recently by researchers at the Center for Retirement Research, which supports this blog.  First, the researchers pinpointed all workers in the data set who were over age 50 and lost a job between 1992 and 2000.  They then examined their financial outcomes – earnings and assets – a decade later and compared them with outcomes for those who avoided layoffs during that time.

Unemployment rate for workers ages 55+If the financial fallout during the 1990s was that dramatic for unemployed older workers, it will be even worse for many of the 3.2 million jobless baby boomers at the peak of the Great Recession, the longest downturn in post-war U.S. history.

The Great Recession hit just as members of the biggest demographic bulge ever were either hitting retirement age or lining up on the runway.  Record numbers of them sustained severe hits to their financial security, because the jobless rate for older workers reached record highs.

The research suggests that the recession’s effects may last into old age for many boomers.  One key reason for their grim prospects is that older workers have more difficulty snaring new jobs than do young adults.  Many boomers never found employment and are being forced to retire grudgingly, simply because they lack options.

An unemployed 56-year-old commenting in a recent New York Times article about the Great Recession’s human toll said that she feels like she’s rowing in the “Too-Old-To-Even-Interview boat.”

Unfortunately, many older workers joined this club during the Great Recession.

To learn more about unemployed boomers, read two recent articles: “Unemployed Boomers Resist Retirement” and “Jobless Boomers: How they Survive.”

Full disclosure:  The research cited in this post was funded by a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) through the Retirement Research Consortium, which also funds this blog.  The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the blog’s author and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government.

Adrian L. Sabater

….and what is worse is that because Americans over 55 are able to sue their employer for old age prejudice, employers will go out of their way to avoid those over 55. No matter how healthy or skilled they are! Just another government program who put more Americans out of work!

Do what I did and move out of America!

    David Mason

    Ditto!! Did you know you can retire in Mexico for a small fraction of what the cost would be in the U.S.? Retirement costs less than half what is does in the U.S., and in plenty of places, it is enjoyable, clean, picturesque, and safe (contrary to what a lot of media mavens say, especially if you are NOT in the business of supplying drugs to the U.S. market). True, sometimes you may miss the good old USA, but you are less than a hop, a skip, and a jump away. Even President Obama came recently to explore just that possibility. I am in my 20th year here and cannot complain.

Amy VanDeVelde

This is a reality we have seen in our program, OASIS Connections. It is increasingly important for older adults to gain and/or update their technology skills.


Due to the fact that the recession is lasting in the Netherlands, a lot of people between the ages of 45 and 55 are dealing with the same problems.

Especially for the long-term.

If they fail to keep up with technology, social isolation is a new threat at a time you need friends and positive feedback.


Totally agree with all. The gap between the users of social media and old styled people is increasing. That’s a big concern for the future.

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