Cover of the book "Catch-22"

Money Culture

Once-Jobless Boomers Still Struggling

Baby boomers face a Catch-22.

Many boomers will have to stay employed longer than they’d hoped to close the gap between what they’ll need in retirement and what they can realistically afford. Yet the job market is tough for job-hunting older workers, and if they are employed, wages stagnate or decline when people get into their 50s.

new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute shows the continuing toll on workers ages 45 and older who have suffered a bout of unemployment since the onset of the Great Recession. Lower pay, fewer hours, or more limited benefits in their new jobs and a prolonged inability to find any job are plaguing these workers. AARP found that only half of those hit by job losses have found work, and the rest either remain unemployed or may have given up and dropped out of the labor force entirely.

AARP’s representative survey of some 2,500 older Americans, conducted late last year, aligns with earlier academic studies looking at the Great Recession’s impact on older workers. The youngest boomers are now 50, so the survey includes some people in Generation X.

The following are AARP’s major findings:

  • Nearly half of the people surveyed earn less in their new employment than they did before losing their previous job.
  • The older someone is, the more likely he or she is to have taken a pay cut. About 46 percent of people ages 45 through 61 are earning less, but that surges to 62 percent for people over 61.
  • 48 percent of those who changed occupations earn “a lot less” or “somewhat less” than they did.
  • 28 percent of the previously long-term unemployed – those who were jobless for 27 weeks or more – believe they will never fully recover financially, compared with 16 percent of those with shorter jobless spells.
  • Older workers who had been unemployed were twice as likely to be working part-time as the general workforce their age – 34 percent versus 16 percent.
  • Part-time work is even more common if they were previously among the long-term unemployed – 41 percent of them are now part-time.
  • Respondents cited the following as their biggest barriers to finding employment: no jobs available (71 percent agreed); tied to a geographic location (60 percent); inadequate salary (58 percent); employers think I’m too old (57 percent).
  • Further, 51 percent explicitly cited age discrimination as hurting their opportunities for re-employment.

6 Responses to Once-Jobless Boomers Still Struggling

  1. Bormasina says:

    The recession hits hard :(. Great article, very nice info

  2. Mark Zoril says:

    Unemployment in your 40’s, and more so in your 50’s, can be devastating to a retirement plan. Far more devastating than market losses. I have seen this time and again with clients. For many people, they will need to defer retirement or significantly modify their expectations or lifestyle goals. In addition, it can have a huge impact on their morale, which may affect their personal outlook and relationships as well.

  3. M Voutour says:

    I know people who have fallen into this pit. One man was making about $70,000/yr as an automotive service department manager in 2008. Then he was laid off and his next job only paid about $40,000. Laid off again, he descended further to about $33,000. And after having to change jobs yet again because of health issues, he now makes about $20,000/yr. He has to complete with people much younger for every job and be better than them to keep each job.

  4. Lanell says:

    I’ve seen numerous references to the impact of retiring boomers on the labor force — and yet many boomers do not voluntarily choose to retire; they cannot find work.

    I am researching this issue and attempting to identify the organizations that are helping boomers find meaningful work at reasonable salaries and the companies that are restructuring work to retain/recruit boomers.

    Do you know where I might look for more information?

  5. Dear Lanell,
    I hope you’ll let me know what you learn!

    I have 2 suggestions:
    The Sloan Center on Aging & Work is at Boston College, where this blog is also situated:
    http://www.bc.edu/research/agingandwork/
    Here’s a blog about a researchers who might have some ideas:
    http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/employers-bias-against-aging-boomers/

    Thanks for reading our blog.

  6. Jan Espo says:

    I am 55 years old and been out of work since June 1 2015. I can’t find work, very few phone calls for interviews. I had a job where I was making $85,000, but lost it due to budget cuts. My lifestyle was based on my income but now it’s all changed and I could be homeless soon if I don’t do something quick.

    Does anyone have advice for me?

    Thanks