Older workers facing softening job market

John Dimsdale May 3, 2012

David Brancaccio: Tomorrow, the government comes out with its very closely-watched tally of how many Americans are unemployed. But here’s something we know already: the number of people unemployed long-term remains at record levels.

Marketplace’s John Dimsdale takes a closer look.

John Dimsdale: In the first three months of this year, 3.9 million Americans had been out of work for a year or more. That’s only a slight improvement from 2011. And the latest update from the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative finds long-term unemployment for older workers is getting worse.

Ingrid Schroeder is the Initiative’s director.

Ingrid Schroeder: Workers aged 55 and older, although they are less likely to lose their job in the first place, they’re more likely to stay unemployed for a longer period of time than all the other age groups.

She says employers figure elderly people lose their job skills more quickly.

In Orlando, Florida, 59-year-old Fred Sanford has heard that before. He lost his job with Merrill Lynch nearly two years ago. He says prospective employers have an age bias.

Fred Sanford: I’ve got tons of experience and documentation but I think they’re to the point where they can hire a kid out of college for half of what they think they could hire me for.

At the AARP Public Policy Institute, Sara Rix says the longer someone is out of work, the harder it is to find a job — for everybody.

Sara Rix: Employers wonder what is wrong with this worker if he or she hasn’t been unable to find a job in six months.

Rix recommends unemployed workers take advantage of re-training programs to show they’re keeping job skills current.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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