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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Patricia said:

I read these stories more often than I want to sometimes, but nonetheless, here I am. What has changed is that those of us who are at a certain "age" are beginning to stand up or at least voice what has happened to any one of us who "were thrown out into the darkness" and it continues to happen. Continues to happen as now there are these programs that are becoming available in states that will enact same. One comes through Bridgeport, CT, "Platform to Employment". Washington is beginning to see the need to "re-train" some of us with an internship with the hope that one of those internships will employ some of us. Since I am in the south, and finally the program has come here, it has only accepted "20" folks for now, but then again, in September from what I have read, there will be more folks accepted. For myself, I continue to look for the remote of a job anymore, given I am now considered the "fossil" if you will, I still continue to look for something, but presently, to no avail. Please folks continue to let anyone who you might think might possibly listen to you, as we all have something to speak about, especially any one of us who are "older" if you will.

Gary Vosburg said:

I am 57 years old. My job was eliminated 14 months ago, and my saving will only hold out about two more months. I have applied for well over 500 positions and have managed to get 4 face-to-face interviews. Unfortunately, I have only learned from this experience that I am not qualified for jobs that I have held in the past. I have multiple degrees and management, teaching and clinical psychiatric experiences. I have placed applications across this spectrum. I do not have a mate or any immediate family to turn to for help. I felt totally isolated until discovering this forum tonight - I am sure everybody on this site has had sleepless nights too. I do not know what to do or where to turn for help. I would like to thank everybody on this site for validating my feelings of hopelessness, desperation and depression. Funny thing our generation was raised feeling we should give, give, give to our companies. Younger generation seems to feel the company owes them; yet, our talents, experience and attitudes are no longer valued.

kay said:

I have posted on this site before, last year I think? or maybe it was the year before??? i'm now going on 56 now and still out of steady employment since 2010 "ageism is still alive and well" it seems ...... I've recently given up looking for work as its seems no one will ever hire me again!....after a 30 year career in healthcare I never thought for one minute I would be in this place of "extreme hopelessness" i'm sitting in my apartment 7 months back in rent, waiting to be evicted with no place to go? its January 2014 a new year ..but. with us over 50 out of work Americans who's celebrating? know Great depression the 1930's.

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