Once upon a time in America, the concept of “lifetime employment” was the norm. The average worker counted on staying with an employer until retirement, at which point he or she could also look forward to a decent pension from his or her employer.
Those days are long gone.
Not only is lifetime employment virtually unheard of these days, but older workers also frequently find themselves among the ranks of the long-term unemployed. At first glance, unemployment statistics appear to indicate that older workers are in a better position than their younger counterparts; however, those statistics deceive.
The unemployment rate for workers over the age of 55 is only 4.1 percent compared to 5.7 percent for the population overall, making it appear that older workers have fared better in recent years as the economy has slowly rebounded from the 2007 “Great Recession.” Statistics suggest that older workers have been participating in the labor force in ever-increasing numbers over the past several decades. It’s easy to conclude, based on a shallow interpretation of these facts, that older workers are doing fairly well in the workforce. A closer look at unemployment figures and related data, however, points to a starkly contrasting conclusion.
To accurately assess the unemployment situation for older workers, you need to look not just at how many Baby Boomers and members of even older generations are unemployed, but also at other benchmarks such as how long these folks remain out of work. A recent survey conducted by AARP did just that. According to the AARP survey, 45 percent of older workers who actively sought work in 2014 were long-term unemployed, defined as out of work for 27 weeks or longer. The percentage of younger workers facing long-term unemployment during the same time period hovered just above 35 percent.
Older workers who secured new employment, meanwhile, often accepted jobs at a lower rate of pay and/or with fewer benefits. A shocking 60 percent of respondents in the AARP survey indicated they accepted a job paying less than their previous job. 15 percent accepted the same pay. Only 25 percent were offered a job paying more than their previous position.
According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Economist Heidi Shierholz, workers between the ages 54 and 65 earned, on average, 13.5 percent less in a new job.
The reasons why older workers fare poorly in the job market vary, and economists debate the root cause(s). These experts cite: a) an overall lack of appropriate jobs in the 2015 economy; and b) a documented propensity of employers to hire younger workers.
Here’s one positive statistic – a potential silver lining. Older workers seem to be more likely to find a job if they start looking right away instead of taking time off after losing a job.
Are you confused about your rights as an older American in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP right now at (212) 688-5640, or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org, to explore what you can do about an employer whom you suspect has violated the Age Discrimination Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), New York Labor Laws (NYLL) or other labor laws.