The Elderly Who are Unemployed

(9/30/10)- As of the end of August there was a total of 14.9 million unemployed people in this country. Of that total, more than 2.2 million were 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed 6 months or longer, according to Labor Department statistics. The unemployment rate in the group-7.3%- is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the recession.

(12/11/09)- The unemployment problem continues to hit older Americans, with very little relief in sight. The latest Labor Department statistics show that the number of unemployed workers ages 55 to 64 has tripled since the recession began in October, 2007 to about 1.6 million.

The number of jobless workers of all ages has nearly doubled in this same timeframe. At the peak of the boom, employment among the 55 to 64 age group topped out at nearly 63%. During boom times employers are more willing to hire older workers since there is a shortage of younger workers.

The Social Security Administration has seen a 21% surge in applications from retired workers for initial Social Security benefits payments for the fiscal year ended September 30th. The agency had expected a 15% increase.

Unemployment among the 55-year-olds to 64-year-olds was 7% in November, up from 6.6% in October despite a decline in the overall unemployment number of 10% down from 10.2% in October. That is the highest number for that age group since the Labor Department began keeping those statistics in 1948.

(11/7/09)- There are more Americans 65 and older in the job market today than at any time in history, 6.6 million compared with 4.1 million in 2001. The unemployment rate for older Americans is 6.7%, which is better than it is for the nation as a whole, since that figure stands at 10.2 % at the end of October.

That 6.7% is more than double the level of two years ago, and much higher than the 1.9% earlier in the decade.

Unemployed older workers stay out of work, on average, about 36.5 weeks, which is 40% longer than the average for the rest of the population.

The median income for those 65 and older was just $18,208 in 2008 according to Patrick Purcell, an expert on older workers and pensions with the Congressional Research Service.

More than one million Americans over age 60 are unemployed, two-and-a-half times the level two years ago.

(3/2/09)- According to the latest U.S. Labor Department statistics, the number of unemployed workers 75 and older increased to more than 73,000 in January 2009, up 46% from January 2008. The jobless rate stands at 5.7% for this age group. That number is far above the 4.3% achieved in the recession of 1981.

Again, according to the Labor Department statistics, the percentage of people 65 and older who are in the work force rose to 16.8% at the end of 2008, from 11.9% a decade earlier. Among those 75 and older the percentage was 7.3% at the end of 2008 versus 4.7% a decade earlier.

The Senior Community Service program is the only federally funded jobs initiative program that targets the older unemployed workers.

It currently has $433 million in funding, and workers must be at least 55 years of age, and not have incomes more than 25% over the poverty level ($13,000 a year for individuals). Those who participate in the program receive on-the-job training, and are paid minimum wages, by the federal government, for up to 20 hours per week.

The program matches older workers with community nonprofit or public organizations. The paid training is supposed to last no more than 24 to 36 months, and it handles about 92,000 workers a year. A report from the General Accountability Office stated that the program is funded to serve less than 1% of the workers who qualify.

Experience Works is an Arlington, Va. based national nonprofit organization that offers job training and placement for 20,000 older workers in 30 states and has a long waiting list. The Senior Employment Center is another national nonprofit organization that helps older unemployed workers.

In December, the average period for joblessness for workers older than 55 was 25 weeks, compared with 18.7 weeks for those under 55, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.


Allan Rubin
updated September 30, 2010

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