Senior Workers Getting a Larger Slice of the Employment Pie

by Cathy Vandewater | March 13, 2012

Much talk has been generated by all the positive employment news--recently capped off with the BLS’s report that major employment gains were made in professional and business services, healthcare, and leisure and hospitality, and marketing in February. Altogether, theUSsaw a total of 227,000 jobs added throughout the month, despite a steady unemployment rate of 8.3.  

Yet a look at the long-term gains and losses in jobs paints a grimmer picture of the new economy. A sea change seems to have occurred in regards to which people the jobs are actually going to, post-recession. To put it in numbers, in the past five years, the BLS reports that people aged 55 and over gained 3.6 million jobs--while younger workers lost 7.6 million.

Though we tend to think of job gains as a uniformly positive occurrence, it’s actually a poor sign of market health when people of retirement age flood the workforce. Not only does it signal that older people can’t afford to stop working, or trust the economy to support them in their retirement years, but a deluge of experienced workers robs jobs from already vulnerable entry level workers—many of whom just acquired a heap of student loan debt.

Take last year’s 2.5 million net job gains: 600,000 of those jobs went to people over 65. This, as recent graduates take unpaid internships and babysit.

And that’s assuming young people even have opportunities: teens hit a 20% unemployment rate this summer (a number theUShasn’t seen in thirty years, pre-recession) for the third summer in a row. That lack of valuable job experience may be triggering the 7% unemployment rate we’re currently seeing for the 25-54 age rage. That number might not seem so bad, until you compare it with a healthy 5.9% for senior citizens (the lowest rate, by the way, of any age group).

But don’t be jealous just yet. Many older workers don’t want to be working—they need the insurance coverage, or didn’t grow a big enough nest egg, which is as stressful a situation as being unemployed but young and vital. They also have a harder time finding a job than you—the BLS reports that seniors spend, on average, an extra 31.4 weeks job hunting than young people.

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Read More:
Older Workers Seeing Biggest Job Gains (MSNBC)


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