The Great Recession Continues for Unemployed Boomers


My June column for StayThirsty.com:

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.

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Comments

Juliana said:

Looks like I am not the only one. I am 54 and lost my good paying job due to outsourced to India. I thought I would find a job quickly. Wow was I wrong! I have 14 yrs experience at the phone company. I have a job now, thankfully..but making 300 a week...Have to live with my daughter and her fiance as I cannot afford rent now and my car payment and other bills. I apply and apply....looking for more pay or 2nd job. Marriott turns me down over and over. Not sure that many people still looking for jobs or due to my age. How to start over at this age? I am so tired of being broke and not being able to do anything and watching my credit go to hell. I took a 6 mo accounting assistant course while unemployed...they promise to find u a job after graduating only to have you look on Craigslist for jobs! Which I was doing before going to school! Making 10 an hour and under is killing me! Thanks for listening. - posted Aug. 28, 2015

Patricia said:

I am responding to Alice about the program you mention. Each and every state has such a program, and each and every state have a budget wherein they are tuned into hence sometimes forcing the cut in hours. In essence, and I hate to be a downer, "but when there is nothing out there" I do believe the gov't sees this and hence cuts the hours. But if there is a "promise" after the program no matter the hours that they will stay with you until you might land a job, then go for it and I will say good luck. One other thing, type into Google "Long Term Unemployed 2015" and read the news end of things and you will see what has been going on for such a long time now. We all at this site need to unite someway somehow and let Washington know WE ARE NOT DEAD YET, AND WE NEED TO BE HEARD AND HELPED NO MATTER WHERE WE COME FROM ALL ACROSS THIS UNITED STATES!!!!!!!! AS WE ARE "THE FORGOTTEN". - posted Aug. 21, 2015

Dino said:

You all make me cry. My husband, 59, has been laid off for 2 years except for a job that promised him the moon and then let him go 5 months later. I am working seasonly at the summertime lake town we live in with an idea to have our own business around here. We haven't been able to pay our mortgage pmt in a while, but have managed paying the rest. My husband has put in a hundred applications and has just found one job repairing small engines. He's working 9 hrs a day five days a week and he brought home $180.00 his first full week. No one has ever called him back to tell him why they didn't hire him. They just can't say 59 is a bit risky. There is really something wrong here, and we are just about at the end of our rope. - posted Aug. 20, 2015

Laurie said:

Greetings fellow refugees from a 56 year old women who lost it all, as many of us have, especially single people, in the great cesspool of this ongoing recession. From relative riches to rags between 2010 and 2013. I could write volumes about my descent into hell but my intent here is to reach out to any Northern CA. people that are in this awful situation. I live in the Sierra Nevada foot hills outside of Sacramento and would love to hear from others in my general geographic area to share, commiserate, and possibly discuss creative shared living arrangements at some point. If any of you would like to correspond with a bright, creative, humorous ( albeit sardonic ) women, and share your stories feel free to email me @ somersetgoose@gmail.com Sincerely, a fellow refugee. - posted Aug. 19, 2015

Alice said:

I had just started a senior training program in CA called SER - SCSEP in other states. Was there for almost 2 weeks and the powers that be (the gov.) announced hours are being cut back from 21 hours a week to 16 hours beginning August 20! Anyone here in this program; feedback? - posted Aug. 19, 2015

Patricia said:

In response to William, today August 17, 2015, there is a free website creation called Wix, ever heard of it? If not, I am going to look into same and let you know by posting here. The other thing WE all need to do if WE are serious about this is to communicate one on one with each other. Yes there will be those who will not, but, as I have felt for quite some time now, WE "The Forgotten" need the spotlight of not being "The Forgotten". - posted Aug. 18, 2015

William said:

In response to Patricia. The plan is this: 1) - Prompt some response from the overfiftyoutofwork site. So far...virtually no support. 2) - Once a significant level of interest is fielded; create a freestanding website...my guess is that overfiftyandoutofwork will not appreciate use of their site for this purpose; 3) - Poll the skill set of the respondents (i.e., web developers, statisticians, database people, etc., etc.); 4) - There will be NO leader...this is the opportunity for everyone to be CEO. A skill set will be called for, say for example: solicitation of web developers to create a site. Based on the response, the "collective / individuals" with this skill set will build the site....this will continue for each need until we are at the point that we can mobilize folks for the trip. 5) - In regard to monies for travel...it is understood that not all will have resources....there are plenty of ways to support the effort that are of equal or greater value....there will be no mechanism for transaction of monies...thus eliminating ANY and ALL potential for misappropriation...and NO political affiliation of any sort as well. This is NOT a "movement"...it is simply a collection of individuals with common experience (unemployment / underemployment)...we need visibility; 6) - All activities MUST be conducted with the utmost respect for the law, and our government...remember...we are USA...behave with dignity; 7) - All are included and equal...all race...religion...veteran and non...sexual orientation...experience and education...and of course "age" (any age). BOTTOM LINE: People need to begin to show interest....if this happens...will self-perpetuate. -posted Aug. 18, 2015

Patricia said:

William, this is Patricia, what are your thoughts and ideas on the gathering of any one of us who are "The Forgotten" on how to bring "we" together? You need to put out a plan if for nothing other here, to begin with to see what if any response you are to get. If folks are serious, the serious questions will be "how to do it"? the "expense" , etc. because most of us who are out here in "never never land" haven't a dime to our names, and hence trying to get to DC is next to impossible. As I suggested as well, WRITE AND WRITE and CONTINUE TO WRITE TO ANYONE, EVERYONE, SOMEONE, maybe someone might donate those services to bring "we" together "The Forgotten" - posted Aug. 17, 2015

michele perry said:

I knew you were out there. Really probably millions of us unemployed or underemployed. I owned my own consulting firm doing evaluation of educational programs across the country for 14 very successful years. Then the divorce, then the stock market, then in 2011 the contracts dried up. Justifiably so. No educational system ever wants to be evaluated and having states in financial crises evaluation was one of the first things cut. So in 2011 my life began a radical change. I had been undergoing the change since 2008. I had a lovely home in Austin, TX. I was comfortable, great neighbors and friends, and expected to remain there. When the economy began changing I realized if I lost contracts I would not be able to make the mortgage payment. Heartbreak of selling the only home I'd ever felt like was just mine alone. Into an apartment complex. Onto unemployment in Texas. Totally disoriented. I'd never done this before. Sat in a huge room full of people my age and older all dressed for their trade or business. Suffered through the mandatory lectures of staff of the TX Wrkfrc Commission. I was panicked. I had not been without a job since I was 15 and lied to get my first work on a corn cutter in a processing plant. A dangerous job. A tedious job. But I was proud. In the course of the years from 2011-2013 I completed 701 applications. I had two responses. I keep them all in a closet and move them with me in case the state of TX, never known for its expeditious accounts management, should try to make a case I did not try to find work. I believed I was being humbled for a reason; I had not shown enough gratitude when I had money; I had not shared my good fortune...but all these were untrue. I did, however, grow through meditation and yoga during this difficult time. I knew I needed to forgive myself for the failure that was not mine, but was systemic. I was raised on the philosophy that all work is good work. And I believe that still. My self-esteem bottomed out; I wandered around aimlessly; my anti-depressants were increased. Finally it came to me that all the energy I put into worrying and endless self-talk and monkey-mind was negative and would kill me. So I've adopted the "lily of the field" attitude and lifestyle the past 3 years. This lily had to move from Austin to Champaign, IL to be present in case my parents had needs. By seeing myself vividly as a lily in my mind I could see and feel myself blowing in the breeze. Sometimes the breeze was gentle and some small grace came my way. For example, I got a job paying 10/hr to teach children a specific reading methodology, and I helped clean an art professor (hoarders) house out for 15/hr cash each day, and I delivered a single flower to a statue where a man and his wife had met 25 years ago. I presented the yellow rose while the bag piper played in the rain. Each of these brief jobs I viewed as blessings. They kept me going. I was swaying still but upright. This summer I have had no work and I am living off the small savings I have. I will hopefully be substitute teaching when school begins. I have a very small writing contract, I auditioned yesterday as a Simulated Patient for the Med School. I am trying to piece my life together. I ask that you set an intention or pray for me that I will get a call on August 18 from the medical school that I have been chosen. It's only a once in a while job, but it's something. Like you I am endlessly restless, bored, unable to concentrate even though this would be the time to catch up on two years of back issues of New Yorkers. In the 60's and 70's so many of us rose up. We stood and fought for civil rights and human rights. We knew the song "Street Fighting Man" by heart because we were constantly engaged in activism and protest against the war in Vietnam; many of us have continued in activist rolls for causes. We are the generation that knows how to stand and fight and protest in the streets. And how to get results. We know if takes personal sacrifices. I am confounded that our generation is not now engaged in activism around age discrimination, cuts in hours while younger colleagues remain full time, the perception that we have all slid from middle class into poverty because we haven't worked "hard enough." I've slid--into a classless society. I talk every day to those with far less than me. I have food, shelter, insurance, and can still make co-pays for my meds. But as you all know every day we feel like there is an axe over our heads. We had money and lost money. Or, we didn't save enough when we did have it. Or, we never had it. Now here we are. All in the same boat. When I finally understood that "Senior" now begins at age 50 I was pissed as hell and still am. I am not ready to go gently into that night. I agree with many of you that we must become a presence. Perhaps our mantra are those words, "The Forgotten." Let others ask what we are about. Form a loose coalition. I feel so fortunate to have discovered the article that brought y'all to my attention. I am not one who has been interviewed, but I too am among "The Forgotten". We perhaps need to take a look back from an historical perspective at where we came from. How were we organized in those days of demand for civil rights, or an end to the war? How have we continued to be cogs in the wheels of activism? What were the strategies then and could the most successful of those strategies become a springboard for a new need to organize as a political force? Now is our time to take what we learned and apply it to the crisis confronting millions of us. Now is our time to become highly focused, strategic, and to agree that we may not come to consensus, but it is a need so large we will agree never to sabotage. There is a place and tasks for each of us. I do truly believe one person can make change. I am thinking of the woman who walks endlessly back and forth across the country as a Peace Pilgrim. She lives like a lily of the field. She depends upon the "kindness of strangers." Wherever she stops she engages others in discussions about the need for peace, how it might come about, and what their role could be. I know us. We are the generation that has been forced into an untenable place in society. I don't know about the rest of you but I want out. I am only 64. I am not ready to be retired. We may feel like The Forgotten but we cannot let that word define us. We must become highly visible. We have endless talents, endless problem solvers and out of the box thinkers among us. I refuse to be among "The Disappeared." The expression for those who go missing in the endless struggles and battles between cartels and corrupt governments. I do not know how to maintain contact with this group but I would like to continue to read your thoughts, consider possibilities, and move forward. Is "Over Fifty and Out of Work" an accessible website? I don't feel so alone today. Namaste' - posted Aug. 17, 2015

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