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.



Lauren V said:

Reply to Carol. You nailed it. Our parallels are striking. Life is unbearable and resembles nothing I care to participate in any more. Play by the rules and get played.

Lauren said:

I recently had surgery. Thought it might be ovarian cancer. I was not nearly as concerned about a deadly cancer than I am about getting a new job. Laid off twice in five years. All of a sudden administrative positions now require a 4-year degree. The positions available are in the $10-$15 range - 40% of my recent salary. Not enough money to pay bills and finish school at the same time. They say no one knows you when you are down and out. Totally true. I am not living I am just existing. If I don't find a suitable job for my 25+ years of skills I will be homeless. I have decided that I would rather commit suicide then spend one night on the street in Los Angeles County. Once you are there you do not come back. Especially if you are a single white women. Sorry if that sounds racist but I've seen the inside of government service agencies. You are on your own. I only wish I had known at 20 at I would need to have 1M in the bank because my earning capacity would be ended at 51. So - with regard to cancer, I already have it. Either I will find a job or I will die.

William said:

In response to Sandy: Sandy is sending a mixed message; one hand indicating that "our skills are outdated"...and on the other indicating that "two-year old's know how to work a cell phone, iPad, etc." I would like to thank this respondent for making a critical point: THE TECHNOLOGY IS NOT HARD/DIFFICULT. It is an illusion that Twitter, Facebook, and reliance on "Wiki" as point of fact are value-added, business/technical skills. Come on people...stop being buffaloed by what is and is not of value. Also...point 2 "Create ones own business...". Doing so is dependent largely on accessible funds, stability and a host of factors that most unemployed neither possess or can gamble. Not to say that with hard work and a bit of luck can bear fruit...statistics prove differently. - posted May 29, 2016

Michele said:

@Robert You said: "I have my own house and have saved all of my working life and as a result I do not qualify for unemployment benefits so have to manage on my savings." Unemployment is not denied based on owning a home or having savings. If you were denied for unemployment, what did they say was the reason for the denial? - posted May 29, 2016

Greg K said:

I got back into Architecture in 2016 after being laid off for almost 10 years, with my 10 years of experience. I didn't give up, I went back to college, and trained with all the new technologies, such as Revit, and Autocad, and now I have a job again. I think what worked for me was that I didn't ask for too much to get back into the field again, and being lucky. The timing was just right, and most of all the employer being a kind caring, and nice understanding person. During the 10 years out of my field I learned how to build a WordPress website, and created an e-commerce store in 2015. - posted May 28, 2016

Carol said:

I am so tired of hearing "things will get better, you will be fine." No, they will not get better. I have applied for 1000's of jobs. Professional level jobs that read word-for-word like my past-life job description, and that was only one of the many hats I wore, nothing. Retail jobs, nothing. Internships, nothing. That's right, there is no company (small, medium, or large) that wants my help for FREE. Let's get real, many of the over 50 long term unemployed will never recover. This is the world we will live in until the day we die, and for me, that day cannot come soon enough. This is not living. Yes, I am alive. Alive & living are two different animals. We are collateral damage, here by design, in the name of corporate greed. I am talking about you IBM, and others who target "resources" closing in on retirement eligibility (by age & salary level) under the cloak of "re-balancing". This is BS, and we all know it, but what are we going to do about it? I paid good money to talk to several different attorney's & the answer is...wait for it...not a damn thing, we cannot prove it. I was placed on permanent layoff in 2008, spent my savings & IRA trying to keep up with my mortgage payments while paying $80K+ for a fresh new college degree. Guess what? Lost my home anyway. Have not had healthcare in 7 years (and don't even talk to me about the "Affordable" Care Act, as if I have the money to pay for insurance which I would not be able to afford to use) just another way to bleed us dry out of fear for the need of catastrophic care. Guess what? It would be a blessing to be in need of catastrophic care, and not to have it, then I can leave this cold, hard, greedy world and not have to suffer another 4-5 decades living in the mysery we used to call the American dream. And don't tell me that I need to go back to school, again. Do not assume that because I am over 50 that my skills are not current. I have made an effort DAILY to keep current with technology, tools & processes as my industry demands it. I love learning I am a very fast learner & a dedicated worker. A 2009 degree made zero impact on my ability to secure a single job interview (paid or internship, even through my alumni group.) And don't tell me to find something I know & do it, take my life into my own hands, I have done that, and continue to do so, but I am a realist, and my days of surviving are numbered. I went down the freelance path before it was "the thing to do" and have been pounding it every single day for the past 7 years, since the very day I graduate (after earning 63 credits in 11 months, going to school day/night/weekends/summers non-stop) I have been pimping out my skills as a consultant & freelancer and barely surviving (just barely above poverty level, making too much money for any government assistance) but the freelance market has become over saturated, to the point where freelancers (and those looking to hire them...even in the USA) are competing for "jobs" at $1-$5.00 an hour. Yes, it's money. Yes, I can buy food, but food just means I will live another day. What is the point of being alive another day? My family will miss me? No, they have tossed me to the curb like garbage, just like each and every one of my "friends" have done, one by one, they grew tired of hearing about my struggles, tried to brush it under the rug & ignore it, even blamed me being in this situation. If I have learned one lesson through the past 7 years of hell on earth, it is that a job defines you. To your family. To your friends. To your community. To society at large. To potential employers And most importantly, to yourself. I hate myself. I failed. I failed in every possible way in this life, despite working my ass off since the day I turned 15. I am now 57 and I pray to all that is holy in this world that my soul be taken from this disgusting planet. If there is a God, please give my space to a more worthy soul, who deserves to breathe the air I am wasting. I have lost everything, and I can deal with that, I did deal with it for 6 long years. But this past year, things just keep getting worse and worse. As soon as I see a glimmer of hope, I am knocked back down into the depths of despair. It is hopeless. How can someone who has nothing continue to lose more, and more. When will it end? I pray it will be soon. I pray the same for all in this situation. This is not living. This is dying. One. Miserable. Hour. At. A. Time. Thank you IBM, for tossing my life to the curb after 24.5 years of loyal service, may karma visit each and every executive who has targeted older workers to line their golden pockets.

Sandy said:

@Robert come on when we were young we replaced an older generation. Our skills are outdated, Industrial, is now replaced by the Technology. Two-year old's know how to work a cell phone, iPad, you? Stop blaming others and take accountability and accept what is real. Create your own business with the skills you have and keep it moving. - posted May 28, 2016

Robert Johnson said:

I am 62 and have been unemployed for four years, I've applied for dozens of jobs but have been unable to land a job. Why? Well every job I've applied for at least 20 immigrants have applied and got the job because companies get accused of racism if they done give jobs to them. I have my own house and have saved all of my working life and as a result I do not qualify for unemployment benefits so have to manage on my savings. Obviously I am from the wrong country. I wonder what benefits I would get if I was to go to Poland or somewhere like Turkey? Probably better off on the streets?

Michele said:

@Elizabeth: I think it's really important for all job seekers--especially those over 40--to learn what questions are illegal, and what questions are absolutely inappropriate to ask (and can be sidestepped), but are not illegal. Good luck with your search. - posted May 22, 2016

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