The Great Recession Continues for Unemployed Boomers

My June column for

Since the declared end of the Great Recession almost two years ago, the outlook for unemployed boomers in the United States has continued to evolve and become more complicated, but it has not brightened.

On the positive side of the picture, the unemployment rate for older workers is 6.3 percent, which compares favorably to the national average of 9.0 percent. More ominously, the length of time that older workers are jobless has been climbing since 2008 and now exceeds 12 months, three months longer than the average time for all unemployed workers.

Moreover, although the number of Americans who are 50-plus and jobless remains around three million, this figure does not take into account: workers who have dropped out of the labor market due to discouragement; individuals forced to claim disability payments or Social Security at the earliest possible date because they cannot find jobs to support themselves; and, lastly, the growing numbers of boomers who are seriously underemployed.

For the past 15 months, Over 50 and Out of Work has been using video to chronicle the stories of older unemployed Americans, and we have now reached our goal of documenting 100 Stories. We have traveled to 16 states, focusing on the states suffering from the highest unemployment rates and interviewed people who have worked in all major industry groups in a diverse array of occupations.

We continue to stay in touch with our interviewees and track the progress of their job searches. Here is a brief summary of their outcomes to date:

Please click here to continue reading.



Sheila Craig said:

I truly understand how you feel. I dont have any degrees only work experience but either way it takes its toll. I too have a dog and cat and they are what keeps me going. Something will come along just keep trying. This too shall pass. Don't ever think you are alone Im 55 and Im scared too. We will find a new job keep your faith. - posted Nov. 21, 2015

David said:

A BSE degree in healthcare construction is only an excuse. I have been oversight on over two hundred million dollars of healthcare projects, having received awards for my work. I have educated so many PE and BSE that I have lost count. But I am the one unemployed! Both if the BSE from the last two projects I was on are employed by the companies they were ti be oversight of. At least my integrity is not for sale. One of the clowns with a BSE made enormous mistakes, two petting people's lives at unnecessary risk just to prove he was better skilled than I. I had failed a newly renovated wing of a healthcare facility twice. Having serious arguments with the BSE because of my refusals to accept the wing. Knowing the corrections could not accomplish in a week, and a family member undergoing surgery, I opted to use one week if my vacation. The Monday morning of my vacation the BSE shotgunned an e mail accepting the wing! The day of my return I asked the BSE for the air flows in the two isolation suites. He didn't have any record, then discovered the isolation system fans were in back order and not installed! He shotgunned a message that the isolation rooms could not be used... Then I asked him about the electrical. He had no idea what I was talking about. After hours I held a construction meeting in the wing and demonstrated his the circuits were mix labeled, wired wrong and did not meet the design nor code! Two weeks later after the electrical crew worked every night of the two weeks the electrical was corrected. Integrity? The BS degree BSE in ths case only means you can lie and out lives in danger because of your lie. Yet I am the one without a job! The BSE is now "safety manager" for the General Contractor he was to supervise. - posted Nov. 21, 2015

Charles said:

The JOB has really only been around since the industrial revolution .Prior to that everyone almost was self employed...(.In a nutshell ..Look at any High rise Office Building..They need everything delivered to them.. I started a Office Coffee Biz..I put machines in For Free they then bought my supplies I bought from roasters ETC ..They need everything delivered to offices ..That was Years ago ..I just sold the Biz retired with good cash in my pocket ..Condo paid for Life is Fab..So START A BIZ like I did..Forget the words "Good Job" - posted Nov. 17, 2015

Chas said:

Just think, I had even considered trying to look for work in Canada... but just to clarify, I am not looking for a hand out from our U.S. government, but I do expect legislators to examine our situation and pass laws if necessary or incentivize the hiring of older adults. My financial situation, like a lot of others is serious! Yes, I tried offering painting houses in our neighborhood and I mostly received curious looks or a polite no thank you. Help. - posted Nov. 14, 2015

Patricia said:

Chas, I agree with your posting regarding, but remember "numbers" and "numbers" of folks are needed to at least get someone's attention there. I am a big supporter of Cspan, as I watch them all the time for various subjects and/or topics and I have also gotten through to comment several times. Since they are based in Washington, DC and the numbers of folks who are indeed over "50" and some younger as well as older probably do not live in DC someone would need to be the spokesperson if you will. Presence of someone who has been or who has just been or someone who has tried and tried needs to be that person. After this writing I will too email Cspan and see if there is any response. Please anyone who reads this site needs to think that if approached on this subject how the impact to what has happened to any one of us has impacted our lives and how we "survive" today. - posted Nov. 2, 2015

Maximus said:

From Canada. We are in the same boat. Status: Canada still in a technical recession. High School dropout but self educated and was self employed for many years. Spent 18 years in the automotive electronic industries . Had contracts with Canadian larger consumer electronic store but 3rd party companies contracts ended due to mergers from USA Stores. Reinvented myself to the customer home theater and smart homes industries. Due to the crash of 2008 many stores who kept me busy closed up and there was a technological shift the way people viewed Television. Closed company down in 2010 there was no point in continuing in that field and needed to make a new investment to retool but the numbers said another thing. Became a full time parent for 5 years now. Children are getting older now and have been prospecting and searching how I am going to reinventing myself once again for the future. Looking bleak, as I am not to certain my trades will have any use, but always have a positive outlook. Maybe it is time to write a book. - posted Nov. 2, 2015

Sandy said:

It is crazy that we would need 100K signatures for the president to look at our problem. We could certainly get that amount, but it would take a huge, national, organized effort. Meanwhile, one veteran (nothing against veterans) will write to the president about his/her plight and it becomes national news. Everyone gets older unless they die. Whether they are male, female, white, black, hispanic, asian, short, tall, veteran or not. We are huge numbers and our problems should be addressed. I plan on writing a letter to the president, and if you want to join in, please contact me. I will create a pdf, so we can each write our own story (one page or less) and then I'll hard copy and email them to the president. My representatives have done nothing but send me to job career centers, which is useless to me, as I am skilled with a master's degree. I cant' work for $8-$10 per hour--I hav a mortgage and other expenses. I went to grad school so I would never be in this position. It's crazy. Email me at if you want to write a letter (pdf so it can't be altered). Let me know! This is getting really bad. Like everyone here, I can't get hired. Been out of work 3.5 years and the longer i'm out of work, the harder it is to get hired. - posted Oct. 31, 2015

Angela said:

Please...anyone contemplating suicide, reach out :) Alone we have the strength of 1. Together, we can lend strength to the many among our ranks. Gosh there are soooooo many of us that it seems we are large enough in numbers to prove measurable age discrimination. I'm 54 and was laid off back in 2009 for refusing to sign accounting documents that were false. At the time, I biggie. I'm on my way to being a college graduate, and FINALLY I won't have to work for unethical business people any more to pay my bills. HA! Nine years later and two internships abroad in rural India k-12 have failed to launch me back into the job market...yet. Like many of the people in the stories on this site, I am optimistic that I will become a magical success story because I keep at it. But every day that passes, I feel drawn to giving trying to prepare myself for the reality I may never recover financially. That's BS and am highly interested in gathering together as a network to lobby the government for action. Kindest regards - Angela (253) 355-1897 Tacoma, WA - posted Oct. 31, 2015

Dawn said:

I knew that my job was in jeopardy when I had to report to a Supervisor that I was lucky enough to avoid for 13 years. I am 54. I worked in the human services field for 30 years, servicing our most vulnerable population. The moment I was to report to this Supervisor, I told a work colleague that I would be fired within 3 months despite my 13 years service, 50-60 hour work weeks, certificates and recognition on the State level, and excellent performance reviews with steady advancement over the years. Under this Supervisor, also female, I was told that my face has a permanent scowl and that I should smile more - as I "look approachable." I was told that I'm too assertive, or not assertive enough. I was told that my height intimidates some people and I should be mindful of shorter people and wear flat shoes. This person would catch my eye in meetings and intentionally make a "smile" motion. It got so bad that I spent money that I didn't have on botox. However, it became apparent that no matter what I did, it wasn't good enough and I knew it was just a matter of time. So when it happened, comments were made that "I took it well," and it surprised many that I didn't crumble into an emotional mess. Believe me, I wanted to. I wanted to retire from there. I had great plans for my retirement. But, here I am, 54 years old, waiting tables with a Masters degree in counseling. Don't get me wrong, waitressing is tough and wages unfair but that is another story. I sometimes work double shifts in waitressing jobs, also teach some yoga classes but neither was meant for full time work. I have to pay for medical coverage and too young to retire. I have just about used up my retirement funds. I have never collected unemployment nor have I ever been on welfare. I have 2 dogs that I love very much. But soon, we will be homeless if I do not obtain a decent job with health benefits. My depression is getting worse. The only thing that has kept me going - my dogs. I have contemplated suicide, several times. But I can't leave them with nowhere to go. There was a time when I was on top of the world, working, spending time with friends and family, enjoying hobbies. Now, I work ungodly hours and when I'm not working - I hide from the world. Last week, I submitted 7 more resumes, spent countless hours answering screening questions and psychological tests. Here I am, someone who has been resilient as bell, being brought to my knees due to lack of employment, a sense of purpose and lack of community. Over the past year, I have lost a marriage, a job, battled a bout of appendicitis and rupture, a son who nearly lost his life from a blood clot due to airplane flight- all of which I have handled with grace, one foot in front of the other. But the fact that I have no job, no security, no retirement and the very real prospect of one day being homeless at this age, it has me considering a more permanent alternative. Having a Master's degree that I obtained later in life has proved to be useless. Hello, I can't even get a medical assistant job because I'm not certified, but I have a minor in clinical science! Basically telling me I have to go back to school. I can't deal with this. There are not enough hours in the week to submit resumes, take tests, etc. I have spent hard earned money on professional resumes and cover letters. I have gone on endless websites for tips on getting jobs after 50. Here is the sad part - several sites recommend that women have boots or fillers. If you think I'm kidding, search and see for yourself. This is so scary. I try hard to stay in the present but my future looks so damn bleak. -posted Oct. 31, 2015

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