America's older workers face job crisis

Older workers at a computer

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: As bad as the job market is for everybody right now, it's particularly hard for seniors. There are now about two million unemployed people over the age of 55. That is double the number from a year ago. A study released today shows just how dire the situation is for America's older workers. And Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has the details.


JEFF TYLER: The study was conducted by Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that trains older workers. It surveyed 2000 low-income job-seekers over the age of 55. According to president Cynthia Metzler, many participants live in desperation.

CYNTHIA Metzler: We have so many people -- close to 46 percent -- that when they came to us, they felt that if they hadn't gotten employment through us, they would have faced homelessness.

Seniors reported having to chose between paying rent and buying medicine. Their job searches often take a year, about double the time it takes younger workers to find employment.

After she lost her job at an auto supplier in Michigan, 58-year-old Kat Brown was out of work for two-and-a-half years.

KAT Brown: We wound up, my husband and I, having to sell personal belongings, family antiques. We were able to keep the bills up for quite a long time. But eventually, the strain of that sort of fractured my marriage, and we went through a divorce.

She found a job with Experience Works, where she now helps train other seniors.

Brown: A lot of seniors have never touched a computer. You can not apply for a job nowadays without basic computer skills.

She says older workers who haven't reached retirement age are particularly vulnerable.

Brown: I am seeing more and more people between the ages of 55 and 62, who can not even collect early Social Security, with advanced degrees, who can not find work.

Seniors may need to work because they've outlived their savings. Or the stock market ate their retirement money. Again, Cynthia Metzler.

Metzler: The people that we surveyed don't anticipate retiring.

Seniors who don't want to retire, but can't find a job, risk depression, or even suicide. Advocates say more funding is needed for counseling and re-training.

In Los Angeles, I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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