Older Workers Can Get Hired but It Is Tougher

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senior metal worker using industrial drilling machineOn paper, at least, age bias isn’t allowed in the workplace but it can be difficult to hide the fact you’re an older worker with wrinkles on your face combined with salt-and-pepper hair. Employers can make it tougher to get hired but it’s not impossible if they know which employers are willing to hire them and what skills they need.

“The elephant in the workplace is still age bias,” said Tim Driver, founder and CEO of RetirementJobs.com, in an interview at USAToday.com. “Because of the Baby Boomers and the lower birth rates of younger people, job supply and demand will eventually favor mature workers. But that is still some time off.”

The AARP has some negative numbers when it comes to older workers and employment. The AARP Public Policy Institute, in its December 2013 report, determined:

  • The unemployment rate for the workforce aged 55 and older, which had fallen sharply in November, inched upward in December to 5.1 percent from 4.9 percent;
  • An estimated 1.7 million people aged 55 and older were unemployed in December, over 80,000 more than in November; and,
  • Between November and December, the number of older Americans with jobs fell by 41,000. Nonetheless, the proportion with jobs remained relatively flat – 37.9 percent in December and 38 percent in November, and lower than it was a year earlier (38.3 percent).

Not all the news is dreary for workers 55 years and older. The same AARP report found:

  • The unemployment rate was well below what it had been one year earlier, when 5.9 percent of older Americans were out of work and looking for a job;
  • The number of unemployed workers 55 years and older was almost 250,000 fewer than December 2012; and,
  • The average duration of unemployment for older job seekers fell to 45.8 weeks from 50.7 weeks between November and December.

“It’s not easy for an older unemployed worker to find a job, nor is it easy for an older retiree to return to the workforce,” says Sara Rix, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute, in the same USA Today article. “In this economy the employer is going to say, ‘I can get two younger workers for the same price as one older worker.'”

As a percentage, less people in their 70s might be working but they’re staying on the job longer. The participation rate for people ages 70 to 74 is projected to rise from 19.5 percent to 24 percent between 2012 and 2022, a 23 percent increase. Even people in their late 70s and beyond are projected to increase their attachment to the labor force, according to the AARP.

An Urban Institute report says older job seekers need to overcome these biases to get hired:

  • Employers worry about out of date skills and high costs;
  • Lesser educated older workers are less desirable; and,
  • Employers believe older workers’ higher salaries and benefit costs, combined in the view of some with declining abilities or out-of-date skills.

That means to get hired older job hunters are going to need to demonstrate better use of job-search tools and know what type of employers are most likely to hire older job seekers, said Mary Sue Vickers, director for the Plus 50 Initiative, in the USA Today article.

That article also stated, “Currently, workers who were 65 and older tend to work in retail, professions, education and health services,” says AARP, based on the 2012 Current Population Survey. Fewer worked for the information sector, which includes telecommunications.

“The one industry category where age bias doesn’t exist is elder care,” Tim Driver of retirementjobs.com said. The website offers a Certified Age Friendly Employer (CAFE) program that is an initiative to identify those organizations that are committed to being the best places to work for employees at or above age 50.

Read more in Age Discrimination

Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.
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