Once-Jobless Boomers Still Struggling
Baby boomers face a Catch-22.
Many boomers will have to stay employed longer than they’d hoped to close the gap between what they’ll need in retirement and what they can realistically afford. Yet the job market is tough for job-hunting older workers, and if they are employed, wages stagnate or decline when people get into their 50s.
A new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute shows the continuing toll on workers ages 45 and older who have suffered a bout of unemployment since the onset of the Great Recession. Lower pay, fewer hours, or more limited benefits in their new jobs and a prolonged inability to find any job are plaguing these workers. AARP found that only half of those hit by job losses have found work, and the rest either remain unemployed or may have given up and dropped out of the labor force entirely.
AARP’s representative survey of some 2,500 older Americans, conducted late last year, aligns with earlier academic studies looking at the Great Recession’s impact on older workers. The youngest boomers are now 50, so the survey includes some people in Generation X.
The following are AARP’s major findings:
- Nearly half of the people surveyed earn less in their new employment than they did before losing their previous job.
- The older someone is, the more likely he or she is to have taken a pay cut. About 46 percent of people ages 45 through 61 are earning less, but that surges to 62 percent for people over 61.
- 48 percent of those who changed occupations earn “a lot less” or “somewhat less” than they did.
- 28 percent of the previously long-term unemployed – those who were jobless for 27 weeks or more – believe they will never fully recover financially, compared with 16 percent of those with shorter jobless spells.
- Older workers who had been unemployed were twice as likely to be working part-time as the general workforce their age – 34 percent versus 16 percent.
- Part-time work is even more common if they were previously among the long-term unemployed – 41 percent of them are now part-time.
- Respondents cited the following as their biggest barriers to finding employment: no jobs available (71 percent agreed); tied to a geographic location (60 percent); inadequate salary (58 percent); employers think I’m too old (57 percent).
- Further, 51 percent explicitly cited age discrimination as hurting their opportunities for re-employment.
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