The 50-Plus Job Market: 5 Trends to Watch

3. Length of joblessness is longer.

Many older works without a job, however, have had a hard time finding one. Long-term unemployment remains a critical problem for the 55-plus crowd. Workers age 55 and older needed 42.4 weeks, on average, to find new work, according to the August BLS jobless report–much longer than the 29.1 weeks needed for younger people to find new work.

Still, 41.4% of jobless 55-plus workers were classified as long-term unemployed last month. And when older workers secure new jobs, they’re likely to earn less. One study found that displaced workers will earn 14% to 19% less for the rest of this decade than workers who stay employed continuously–and that they are up to 8% more likely to experience another layoff.

One bright spot in the data on chronic joblessness: The number of weeks needed by 55-plus workers to find new work is falling. A year ago, the average was 50.4 weeks.

4. Age discrimination remains a major worry.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on age in hiring or firing practices. Cases of discrimination in hiring are nearly impossible to prove, and the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission alleging age-related discharge has stayed fairly steady in recent years–1,185 cases were filed in 2013.

But the AARP survey (which queried workers age 45-74) found that 64% have seen or experienced age-based discrimination in the workplace–and nearly everyone thinks it is commonplace.

Elizabeth Fideler

Elizabeth Fideler

The key implication: If you’re hoping to work longer, hang on to your current job for dear life. “Anyone in the Boomer generation who anticipates working to an advanced age either by choice or out of necessity would be well advised to stay with the current job, whether on a full-time or part-time basis, unless he or she has the wherewithal to become an entrepreneur,” says Elizabeth Fideler, a research fellow at Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work.

She adds: “Many seniors favor self-employment, consulting, and business ownership because they make it far easier to continue working, to maintain earning power, and to enjoy a degree of flexibility in terms of one’s schedule and stamina.”

5. Over-70 crowd is pushing the envelope.

Working longer isn’t just for people in their 60s. Increasing labor force participation rates actually are most dramatic among men and women in their 70s and 80s, according to Fideler, who has written two books on the phenomenon–one about older women at work (Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job) and one about men (Men Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job).

“Seniors enjoying good health and the prospect of greater longevity stay on the job because they can,” she says. “When they love what they do, they don’t want to stop.”

Fideler points to BLS projections showing that labor force participation for people age 65-74 will be nearly 32% eight years from now–about a 6% increase from 2012. And the rate for those age 75 and older, while comparatively low, is projected to rise nearly 3%, to 10.5% over the same time period.

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  1. Jerry Hutchinson says:

    Very Interesting. Thanks for the post.

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