Older worker unemployment has increased dramatically during The Great Recession. The unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older increased from 3.1 percent in December 2007 to a high of 7.6 percent in February 2010, before dropping to 6 percent in December 2011.
While older employees are less likely to be laid off than their younger counterparts, it generally takes older job seekers longer to find new employment. The median duration of unemployment for older workers was 35 weeks in 2011, compared with 26 weeks for younger employees. And 55 percent of unemployed older workers spent more than 27 weeks actively seeking a new job in 2011, up from less than a quarter in 2007.
Why unemployed older workers are having difficulty finding new jobs?
A recent Government Accountability Office report examines the barriers to employment for people who were laid off at age 55 or later.
High salary expectations. Some employers may be reluctant to hire people who earned a high salary at a previous position, according to employment experts, workforce professionals, and focus group participants interviewed by GAO. “Employers may expect that an older worker who accepts a job paying significantly less than the worker had previously earned might continue to search for a higher-paying job and might leave the job if a better offer became available,” according to the report. GAO suggests that older workers “learn how to present their skills and experiences to potential employers in a way that does not draw attention to their age, extensive years of experience, and past high-level positions.”
Hiring managers may believe that older employees would be unhappy working for a younger or less experienced supervisor. Workers who previously held a management position could have difficultly adapting to a lower-level job. Older job seekers should develop interview responses that can diffuse employer concerns about hiring older workers. Consider pointing out why you would be a good fit at the company, that you are willing to work for less pay than you received in the past, and that you are comfortable reporting to a younger manager and working collaboratively with people of all ages.
Out of date skills.
Employers are increasingly requiring job seekers to submit applications and resumes online. Older workers who lack computer and other technology skills have a disadvantage in finding work. “Employers are in a position to select from a bounty of highly skilled, well-educated, and most cost-effective applicants,” says Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace, a workforce development firm in Bridgeport, Conn. “Without ongoing efforts to keep skills current during protracted periods of unemployment, the less marketable a person becomes.”
What to do if you can’t find a job?
If you can’t find a job, consider volunteer work or taking continuing education classes so that you won’t have gaps in your resume and will learn new skills. “Many older unemployed workers simply need help navigating today’s web-based job search landscape,” says Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “For other older workers displaced after many years with a single employer or within a single industry, the key to improving employment prospects may be as straightforward as a course in the latest version of Microsoft Office, or as intensive as getting credentialed in a new occupation.”
10 Hot Jobs For Older Workers
Universities offer plenty of good teaching and administrative options for older workers. Plus, it can be a good way to feel young again. Cornell in particular ranked number 1 on the AARP’s list of best places to work over 50, thanks to its job placement programs that specifically target seniors and a workplace culture that is very comfortable for older employees. Cornell currently employs close to 4,000 people over 50 years old. Other universities that ranked high on AARP’s list were George Mason, M.I.T., Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma City University. Salaries vary widely by position and university.
Public School Teacher
If you prefer to work with younger kids, or to go where people are really needed, why not try teaching at a public school? There is a large demand for more public school teachers in this country and according to CNN Money, there are now “alternative certification programs aimed at older workers.” These programs “can pay for and speed up the process of becoming a teacher. “Not only would you be doing something incredibly useful, but the majority of public school teachers make $50,000 or more.
One of the best options for people looking to retire is to consider doing consulting work part-time. According one study, the number of consultants is expected to increase by more than 20% from now through 2016. This is a great way to continue working in your current profession. Best of all, consultants usually work remotely, so you can at least retire your commute. Salaries vary based on the field for which you’d consult. Sales consultants average about $50,000 while information technologies consultants, for example, earn anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000.
With the economy still reeling, Americans are in need of qualified financial advisers now more than ever (especially the guy in this picture). Financial advisors help them make crucial investment decisions, and it’s one profession where having some gray hairs may work to your advantage, helping you look more experienced and trustworthy. According to CNN Money, nearly half of all financial advisers are self-employed, meaning you won’t have to take any guff in the workplace for being a little older. If you do choose to work for a larger company, the AARP recommends H&R Block, Robert Half F&A and Accounting Principals. With enough experience, financial advisers can earn more than $100,000.
If you’re not looking to make a lot of money, and just want to do something useful, why not try volunteering? There are plenty of programs tailored specifically for senior citizens. The Senior Corps, a national service program, is always looking for retirees to work as foster grandparents. In this position, your goal would be to serve as a mentor. Volunteers work up to 40 hours a week and some earn a tax-free, hourly stipend.
It may sound like a strange choice but as CNN Money notes, it’s definitely a job that will give you meaning later in life when you need it. And it pays decently, too. The average religious leader earns more than $40,000 a year.
Health Care Technician
Also known as nurse’s aids or personal support workers, healthcare technicians rank as one of the best jobs for retirees, according to the AARP. These technicians can work in patient care, do research in labs, or help with radiology work, to name a few options. It’s meaningful work that pays well and doesn’t require too much prior experience in field. All you need is one to four years of training beyond high school in a particular health care specialty. Technicians can earn as much as $50,000, depending on their specialty.
If you’re able to convince customers to buy an item, it doesn’t matter what your age is. Whether you’re looking to work in cosmetics or electronics, there could be an option available to you to work as a retail salesperson. This is an especially good option right now, during the holidays, if you’re looking to make some extra cash. These positions typically pay anywhere from $15 to $30 an hour.
People may be criticizing banks these days, but they are a good place to work for older Americans. There are opportunities for older people to work in customer service or as tellers and managers. The AARP recommends working at several banks in particular including Wachovia and Bank of America. Managers make at least $50,000 and tellers usually make $10-$15 an hour.
If you don’t know where else to work, why not try getting a government job. MSN reports that three government sectors in particular frequently hire candidates over 50: the IRS, Peace Corp and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance. Not only are these jobs pretty stable, but they provide excellent health benefits. If you’re interested, check out job listings on this site. Salaries vary based on position.
The Bottom Line
The typical American couple now needs nearly half a million dollars in savings to last through their retirement. As if that burden weren’t enough, The Great Recession has forced many seniors to delay leaving the workforce. Others who were already retired have returned to work at least part-time to make ends meet.
As the economy improves, it seems likely that Americans will work more years as they continue live longer. With that in mind, the Smart Job Searcher has extended their working lives by taking on financially necessary employment that can be some of the rewarding of their professional lives.