Saturday, August 24, 2013

Older Long-term Unemployed Workers (Baby Boomers) in 2013

Whenever I hear conservative news pundits, bloggers, radio hosts and politicians complain that too many people are using government programs (SNAP, disability, TANF, etc.) to survive on when there are "plenty" of jobs to be had, it really makes my blood boil. They always use anecdotal stories (that may or may not be true) to make their arguments for cutting taxes for the rich, rather than using non-partisan data and research.

Instead, these people use misleading, false, and outright skewed and politically and/or ideologically motivated "reports" and "studies" from "think tanks" that are more pro-business, and NOT pro-worker (or pro-American, or even pro-human). Pro-business think tanks, pro-business lobbying groups, and pro-business media outlets (e.g. Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, etc.) outright lie to their "conservative" voting workers, always tricking them into voting against their own best interests.

The fact is, for the past 5 years it has NOT been easy to get a job --- any job --- especially one that actually pays a living wage, is full-time, is permanent, and offers any decent benefits (like healthcare). For the past 5 years most jobs have been either part-time, low-paying and/or temporary. What don't these people understand? I suspect that many do understand --- and know all too well --- but they still don't give a damn, and just want what's best for the billionaires (what's in THEIR best interests, and not what's in the best interests of average American workers).

And many people still don't believe that the Great Recession displaced over 8 million workers, why? And why don't they understand that offshoring jobs is still escalating the unemployment problem?

Because the government stops counting people in the unemployment rate after a given time, millions of unemployed Americans are no longer counted. But for the sake of argument (by using the reported government numbers), counting part-time workers who want and need full-time work, there are still 20 million Americans who need a full-time job and there are only 3.8 million listed job openings. Can conservatives do simple math? Are they burying their heads in the sand? Are the GOP politicians so beholden to their billionaire campaign donors that they are too afraid to utter the truth?

Some of these people still think it's the same now as it was "back in the old days", when all one had to do was pull up their boot straps. (Reality check: No you idiot! It's not the old days! I know! I was raised during the old days and I always found jobs during the old days! This is NOT the old days you moronic and ignorant fool!)

Huffington Post: In a speech to a local Chamber of Commerce (a business lobbying group), Rep. Dave Joyce (a Republican from Ohio) said, "The trouble is, it's because they [employers] either can't find people to come to work sober, daily, drug-free and want to learn the necessary skills going forward to be able to do those jobs."

* Full disclosure: I'm a 57-year-old long-term unemployed man who had his car repossessed over two years ago when I could no longer keep up with the payments after looking for a job for 2 years, so I can't afford to travel from Las Vegas to New York City to take that job at McDonald's --- not because I lack the necessary jobs skills (although, I lack the funds to go to school to obtain any additional skills) and not because I'm a drunk or because I'm a drug addict. Rep. Dave Joyce must watch too much Fox News, and not read enough (if any) real research.

How easy is it (really) to find a job? And especially for older workers, who have been passed over in record numbers? Older Americans like myself have not been hired because 1) just for being older, and 2) just for being unemployed.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study identified employer reluctance to hire older workers as a key challenge that older workers face in finding reemployment. The GAO also found that the number of workers age 55 and over experiencing long-term unemployment has grown substantially since the recession began in 2007. Other findings:

  • Individuals age 55 and over have consistently experienced longer durations of unemployment than younger workers.
  • The median length of unemployment has more than tripled for older workers.
  • The number and percentage of long-term unemployed older workers; those out of work for more than half a year (27 weeks or more) has increased substantially.
  • Only 31 percent of those older workers age 55-64 who were displaced between 2007 and 2009 had regained full-time employment.
  • Several experts interviewed said long-term unemployment diminishes the likelihood older workers will ever be reemployed.
  • Long-term unemployed older workers who exhaust unemployment benefits before turning 62 are particularly at risk.
  • Displaced older workers suffer greater wage losses than younger workers.
  • The effects of job loss are likely to be long-lasting, including being more likely to lose subsequent jobs and experience additional unemployment spells.
  • Losing their jobs had taken a toll on their sense of self-worth, reduced their standard of living, and put them at risk of long-term financial hardship.
  • Being unemployed had made it difficult to afford mortgage or rent payments.
  • Long-term unemployed older workers struggled to pay health insurance premiums and some said they had found it difficult to secure private insurance because of high costs or preexisting conditions. Many had forgone seeking medical care or taking prescribed medications because they could not afford them.

A study by the Urban Institute also reported that older adults took longer to find work when they lost their jobs; and that wage losses were especially steep for unemployed workers in their fifties who became reemployed. As of 2011:

  • 20 percent of workers were age 55 or older, up from 12 percent in 1996.
  • Adults in their fifties spent more time unemployed than their younger counterparts.
  • Half of workers age 50 to 61 who became unemployed spent at least six months out of work (It's much higher now.)
  • It took more than nine months of job search for half of unemployed adults age 50 to 61 to find work (Much higher now.)
  • Unemployed adults in their fifties were about a fifth less likely than their counterparts age 25 to 34 to become reemployed. (Just read under "Conclusions" on page 5)

According to another report that was cited by the New York Times, "a worker between the ages 50 and 61, and who had been unemployed for 17 months or longer, only had about a 9 percent chance of ever finding a new job." And the longer they were unemployed, the lower their chances for ever finding work again. Add in any bad credit reports, medical records, back taxes owed, mortgage foreclosures, or rejected disability claims, and the odds are much worse...they are SOL.

Since the Great Recession began, many older workers have been out of work for five years or longer, caught between a rock and a hard place, because no one will hire them and they are not yet old enough to qualify for regular Social Security.

All in all, the Baby Boomers were the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath. These Americans in their 50s and early 60s --- those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security --- have lost the most earnings power of any age group.

And a study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security, also lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.

For someone who's 55 and unemployed for 5 years, they would still have to wait another 7 years to take an early Social Security retirement at age 62 (a drastically reduced income, but no affordable health coverage until they can qualify for Medicare at 65.)

Research also suggests that long-term unemployed Baby Boomers may die sooner too, because their health, income security and mental well-being were battered by the Great Recession at a crucial time in their lives. The study cited also found that for people in that age group, the long-term unemployed were also more prone to suicide.

Boston Globe:

Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies. “The longer you’re unemployed, the more likely you are to leave the labor force, and the more likely it’s an early retirement for you.”

The majority are older white men, according to the Labor Department, including many college-educated workers who rebounded from job losses earlier in their careers, only to see employment prospects dim in what should be their prime earning years. The longer that people are unemployed, the harder it becomes for them to find work, economists say.

“It’s the problem I worry about the most,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Global Insight, a Lexington forecasting firm. “We’re condemning these people, creating this permanent underclass. Over 50, it’s just impossible to get a job.” (Read their stories)

New York Times: Unemployed and Older, and Facing a Jobless Future - For those over 50 and unemployed, the statistics are grim. Once out of a job, older workers have a much harder time finding work. The reality is that the problem of the older unemployed was acute during the Great Recession, and is now chronic. They’re the wrong age at the wrong time.

Cleveland.Com: 55 and older: Those in this age group who lose jobs have the most difficulty finding new ones. This segment of the labor force has consistently had the highest long-term unemployment rates [and experts say] a looming public policy crisis as this group becomes dependent on various forms of public assistance because of either permanent joblessness or prolonged unemployment. Only about 15 percent got a full-time job.

Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey:

"There is really no demographic age group that has as much difficulty getting back in the job market if they lose a job. There is definitely bias against older workers, even if you have skills. Many of them are requiring food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance. There is a high early enrollment in Social Security, which is a lifetime punishment for people who are forced to do this, because many are taking roughly one-third less [by drawing benefits] at 62. They are depressed. They can't deal with rejection anymore."

PBS: Nearly two million Americans 55 and older are still out of work.

  • JOE CARBONE: "They're carrying a double whammy, not just the long-term unemployment, but they're 50 and older. It makes things that are bad even worse."
  • FRANK RENDE: "We were the first to go. We're going to be the last to come back."
  • PAUL SOLMAN: "Once you're out of work for six months, a year in your case, two years, you're damaged goods."
  • JOE CARBONE: "We see a new population that are unemployable because of the length of their unemployment occurring during the worst recession since the Great Depression, and we're just ignoring them."

Daily Kos: Congressional Hearing: Long-term Unemployment for Older Workers - In 2007, less than one in four unemployed older workers was out of work for more than half a year. But only four years later, more than half of unemployed workers over 55 are confronting long-term unemployment.

  • JOE CARBONE: "It's a challenge if you're under 50. It's a category 5 hurricane if you're over 50."

Slate - The longer a worker is unemployed, the longer one tends to stay unemployed. Businesses hesitate to hire people who have not been working. Those workers tend to get discouraged. The result is what wonks call hysteresis, where the scars from joblessness diminish the chance of future employment and reduce future earnings.

The Atlantic - The Terrifying Reality of Long-Term Unemployment - Employers intentionally screen out the long-term unemployed, even if their resumé has the same work experience as someone unemployed for less than six months.

Wall Street Journal - Economist Rand Ghayad: "Once you are long-term unemployed, nobody calls you back". Joe Carbone, president of WorkPlace: "We are losing thousands of people a day. This is like an epidemic."

A research paper by Ghayad and William Dickens (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston) showed that the long-term unemployed are struggling to find work, no matter how many job openings there are.

ABC (a video about older unemployed workers) The economy might be slowly recovering, but not for the long-term unemployed, especially not for Baby Boomers over 50 years old. They have been in a continuing struggle to find work in the wake of the Great Recession after 5 years of trying to find work and after repeated rejections.

Daily Finance: The trauma of long-term unemployment - Researchers found that the long-term unemployed will suffer deep mental and emotional scars from the experience. A Gallup study in the Economic Journal found that those who were out of work for at least a year took longer to recover emotionally than those who had lost a spouse. The results showed quantifiable declines in their health, their self-esteem and their overall emotional well-being.

Forbes: Surviving Long-Term Unemployment - “Indeed, outside of death and divorce, losing a job can be one of the most difficult things a person will deal with.”

Gallop: Unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like are about twice as likely as Americans who are employed full time to be depressed.

The Wall Street Journal: For Middle-Aged Job Seekers, a Long Road Back - "Less noticed, but no less significant to many economists, has been the plight of the middle-aged. More than 3.5 million Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 were unemployed -- 39% of them for a year or more—a rate of long-term unemployment that is unprecedented in modern U.S. history."

CNN: AARP's Public Policy Institute surveyed unemployed baby boomers in 2010 and 2011. While 71% blamed their unemployment on the bad economy, almost half also said they believed age discrimination was also at play.

Daily Kos: Suicides Spike 30% for Baby Boomers - Some highlights from an article in the New York Times:

  • Suicide rates among middle-age Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry.
  • More people now die of suicide than car accidents.
  • The surge in suicide rates among middle-age Americans is surprising."
  • The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent.
  • It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide."

But I think most of those Boomers would have rather had a full-time job (with healthcare) that paid a living wage. But for some reason, a conservative news pundit, blogger, radio host or politician would rather have you believe otherwise...just to further lower taxes on the very rich. How evil can people be?


  1. I am 58, and have been unemployed for a year. To celebrate this anniversary I have been torturing myself reading online articles about older, unemployed boomers, and have seen a few of your posts (Daily Kos). I appreciate that you are getting this information out there, although it's ignored in the mainstream media. People would rather believe we are too worthless to find a job. This has cost me family and friends, although in retrospect, I'm better off losing those people. Anyway, keep up the good work, and I look forward to reading more of your posts.