Feb. Stay Thirsty: Disposable Boomers

Here is an excerpt from my Feb. Stay Thirsty column:

“I feel like we’re the throwaway generation,” Mickey O., 56, said about the Baby Boomers’ role in the economy.

Despite faltering gains in the wake of the Great Recession, approximately three million older Americans remain unemployed, and this number, of course, does not capture the millions who have given up on the job search and are no longer counted or the severely underemployed who can barely scrape by or the 60-plus-year-olds who have been driven to claim Social Security benefits earlier than they had planned because they could not find jobs.

When the Great Recession began in mid-2007, fewer than 1.5 million older Americans were out of work. Episodes of joblessness for older workers at the time were typically short-lived. Seniority and years of experience shielded older employees and made them valuable to employers.

Fast-forward to now, the start of 2012. Conditions for older jobseekers are little improved, more than two years after the downturn was declared over in December 2009. The majority of older workers who lose their jobs face at least a one-year struggle to find work. Their job search often turns into a two- or three-year odyssey of financial, familial and personal hardship. Even when they are successful and find work, they generally must accept a lower rate of pay.

We are always questioned about the handful of happy endings for our interviewees: Did any of your project participants find jobs?

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