Being an Unemployed Baby Boomer in a Busted Economy

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unemployment2As I have written in the past, I am what the experts call, “A Baby Boomer”, 55 years young, born to parents of “The Greatest Generation”.

Finding myself unemployed at this age, has been a challenge. to say the least.

The big question that looms before me everyday, as I scour the Internet looking for a job, is: “Okay, Champ. Now What?”

The number of Americans in my “age category” now totals around 77 million. The oldest have already passed 65 and are eligible for Social Security and Medicare.

If these Boomers leave the workforce at the normal retirement age, currently set at 67 for younger Boomers, the labor force participation rate will continue to drop simply because of the sheer size of the cohort.

However, many of us, due to the vicissitudes of life, have no retirement fund to draw on. Additionally, most of us do not have pensions. Even those who were able to put back some money were hammered by a decade of meager stock market returns and, in some cases, bad luck or poor investment choices.

Of course, the state of the economy is not helping Baby Boomers, like myself, at all.

According to foxnews.com

The economy grew 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter—hardly the 4 to 5 percent needed to provide enough jobs and restore housing prices to pre-recession levels.

Throughout 2013, higher taxes on all income classes—President Obama’s levies on the wealthy, higher local taxes on the middle class, and reinstatement of social security taxes on lower income workers—depressed consumer spending.

The unemployment rate has become a meaningless statistic for evaluating the economic recovery, because so many discouraged Americans have quit seeking jobs.

Consumers coped by saving less but that dampened winter spending, and first quarter is expected to register at about 2 percent. Activity should pick up this spring to about 3 percent the second half of the year.

…The unemployment rate has become a meaningless statistic for evaluating the economic recovery, because so many discouraged Americans have quit seeking jobs and are not counted in jobless statistics. If the same percentage of adults were active today as when the recovery began, the unemployment rate would be 9.6 percent.

Going forward, the economy will create about 200,000 jobs each month, hardly the 350,000 needed to raise employment to prerecession levels.

But, what about all of those Americans who have dropped out of the Labor Force? Do they matter…and why?

Last year, The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley and the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Casselman feuded over this very topic.

Tankersley sums up the discussion and answers the question which I just raised…

Why do we care that workforce participation is falling? In the column that sparked this feud, Ben Casselman gave us two answers. Both have to do with fear: We fear that the labor market is weaker than we think, and we fear that discouraged workers who left the labor force might, with enough time away, never make their way back into jobs.
J-Tank and B-Cass may not be getting along like Jay-Z and Beyonce, but after this feud can both agree that labor force participation is really important.

J-Tank and B-Cass may not be getting along like Jay-Z and Beyonce, but can they can both agree that labor force participation is really important?

Casselman tells us that the latter fear “may be exaggerated.” He also says, in his latest feud post, that I have outlined no real disagreement with his main points. So here’s a disagreement that’s crystal clear: That fear is not exaggerated. It is under-exaggerated.

Instead of thinking about falling participation as “structural” or “cyclical,” , as Casselman does. Instead let’s think of it as “inevitable” or “not inevitable.”

The “inevitable” decline in labor force participation is the one America has seen coming for decades – as the great mass of baby boomers begin to retire and mass of new would-be workers coming of age to replace them is smaller. (It also includes the shift in the economy toward more young people pursuing higher education.) If that group were largely responsible for the falling participation, Casselman would be correct. There wouldn’t be much to fear about more weakness in the labor market or the prospect of permanently unemployable people.

But the reality is that right now the “inevitable” group isn’t nearly as big as the “not inevitable” group of people who really would rather be working, if possible.

And, I am one of them.

To summarize, as the late great Rodney Dangerfield, said, in his role as self-made millionaire Thornton Mellon, in the movie”Back to School”,

It’s a jungle out there. You gotta look out for Number 1, and don’t step in Number 2!

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

– Allen

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One thought on “Being an Unemployed Baby Boomer in a Busted Economy

  1. Wendy Shafer

    hAS THE COTTAGE Industry of fabrication, and independent contractors been revisited for the “B-B” generation? If so, how would the prospective applicants apply? Could they go through a “temporary workforce” staffing solution? What about secret shoppers, is that viable?

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