Job Searching at 55: “Would You Like Fries With That?”

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starbucksThis week marks one month since I lost my job at age 55, due to a Budget Cut. While I will not give up in my quest to find a new position, the job market looks pretty bleak.

Startribune.com reports that…

It has never been easy to get older, need a good full-time job and not have one. But that’s the predicament now for more Americans than ever, and the challenge has gotten steeper in the prolonged recovery. Millions of workers in their 50s and 60s are drifting into the perilous intersection of unemployment, underemployment and retirement.

“The situation is worse today than it has been in past recoveries,” said Sara Rix, a senior strategist at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “These men and women have little time to recover, and working later in life may be the only way some can make it.”

The unemployment rate for workers over 55 — while falling — is still higher than it was for 25 years before the Great Recession, at 5.1 percent. Older workers remain jobless on average for about a year, far longer than younger workers. Almost half of those over 55 who are unemployed have been so for six months or longer, a total of 761,000 people.

But unemployment is only part of the unwelcome picture. The number of workers over 55 who have dropped out of the labor force but say they still want a job is about 1.6 million, a 67 percent increase since 2007.

Fair or not, some employers question older applicants’ energy and enthusiasm, their technical knowledge, and their willingness to work with young people. A general bias against the long-term unemployed also works against older workers who have been jobless for months or years.

“If the economy were roaring ahead, it would be an easier sell,” said Kevin Cahill, an economist at the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College.

For decades, older workers commonly moved into what Cahill calls “bridge jobs” between their careers and retirement. But today, those jobs are less desirable, so more older workers are ending up in “bridge jobs” they didn’t want.

“The difference, now, post-2008, is that a lot of these transitions are involuntary,” Cahill said. “It’s a huge shift, and it’s the impact of the Great Recession.”

According to a second article published on startribune.com,

The median hourly wage in the United States fell 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012 after factoring in inflation, according to analysis by the National Employment Law Project. Some 43 percent of all U.S. job growth in the recovery years of 2011 and 2012 was in the generally low-wage categories of food services, retail and temp agencies.

This is not unusual after a recession, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, but it’s also a long-term trend.

The economy has for decades been disproportionately shedding middle-skill jobs that command middle-income wages, researchers at Duke University and the University of British Columbia have shown. The most recent decade was the worst of three bad ones in a row for the middle class. Between 2000 and 2011, the economy shed 11 percent of its middle-skill jobs, according to the researchers’ analysis, while low-level employment increased 16 percent.

“We’re just seeing more of what we’ve been seeing over the last 20 years, but it accelerated over the recovery,” said Mike Evangelist, an analyst for the National Employment Law Project. “The real net job growth has been in these lower-wage occupations, in retail and food services, so I think those jobs are indicative of what’s available.”

So, in other words, “Over-50’s”, such as myself, are more likely to find a job at Starbucks or McDonald’s, than one with FedEx or Proctor & Gamble?

Although that may be the reality of the whole situation, I don’t believe that I am quite ready to buy into that defeatist philosophy, just yet.

At 55, I am still of sound mind, plus I have decades of business experience to go with an old-fashioned “give my employer his money’s worth” work ethic.

That HAS to be worth something to somebody.

However, in order to hedge my bet, perhaps I had better start practicing how to say,

Would you like fries with that?

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One thought on “Job Searching at 55: “Would You Like Fries With That?”

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