10 facts about older workers who lost their jobs in the Great Recession


At the end of 2011, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University published a research paper Out of Work and Losing Hope:  The Misery and Bleak Expectations of American Workers (posted in the Resources section of our site).

Carl Van Horn, director of the workforce center, is one of our Over 50 and Out of Work expert interviewees.

The center began a nationwide survey of the unemployed in August 2009 of 1200 respondents and has repeated the survey three times, most recently, in September 2011.

Although the center questioned many more individuals  than Over 50 and Out of Work (100 interviewees),  the devastating impact of the Great Recession on both groups is comparable and grim.

Here is a quick 10-fact summary of the center’s findings:

• Only 23 percent of workers over the age of 50 are working full-time.
• A total of 42 percent are either unemployed (35 percent) or working part-time, but looking for full-time jobs (6 percent).
• Slightly more than 20 percent of workers over 50 have dropped out of the labor market.

Re-employment, for those older workers who have had successful job searches, has not been easy.

• Almost half (48 percent) did not find a job for over a year.
• The majority (60 percent) of the re-employed workers accepted a pay cut, frequently substantial.
• Many of the older workers (42 percent) said that their new job was “very different” from their prior employment.
• The job search for older workers is prolonged:  80 percent of older workers have been seeking jobs for over one year and 50 percent for more than two years.

The impact of the recession on both unemployed and re-employed older workers has been drastic and negative.

• Their financial situation has worsened; most (85 percent) have less savings and income than they did before the recession.
• Their retirement plans have changed – 40 percent said they would have to work longer than they expected and almost half (46 percent) predict that they will have to file for Social Security earlier than they had previously planned.
• One-third of workers over 50 do not have health insurance and 50 percent said they have cut back on health care expenses.

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