Still Jobless? 6 Tips to Get You Back on Your Feet

Finding work in today's economy is hard for everyone—but it's even more difficult if you're an older worker

by Lesley Kennedy • Reporter
Dr Lois Frankel
Dr. Lois Frankel says constant networking is key to any job search.
Photograph: Courtesy Dr. Lois Frankel

If you get the sense that it’s difficult to find a job in today’s tough market, well, it’s more than a feeling. A new analysis from the National Women’s Law Center finds adult women’s unemployment rose to 7.3 percent in December, making it higher than that of adult men for the first time in more than six years. (The rate for men is holding steady at 7.2 percent.) The figures show it really is hard to find work – and if you’re older than 50? It’s even harder.

“There is a sort of paradox here,” says Joan Entmacher, vice president for Family Economic Security at the NWLC. “On the one hand, the unemployment rate is lower for older workers 50 and above than for younger workers; experienced workers are more likely to keep their jobs and they’re less likely to be laid off. But if an older worker loses a job—and this is true for both men and women—it takes her much longer to get back into the labor force. Experienced workers tend to have a longer duration of unemployment; a much higher percentage of jobless older workers are unemployed for a year or more. So, while their seniority on the job has helped them stay in the labor force, if they are laid off, they have a harder time going back to work.”

And, if they do, eventually, land a new gig? Goodbye, old paycheck. 

“[Older workers] are likely to take an even larger pay-cut than other jobless workers who get reemployed,” Entmacher says. “Many middle tier jobs, particularly, have disappeared, and, overall, the trend is that the jobs that are coming back are lower paying.”

With more job seekers than jobs, older workers also face age discrimination, according to Entmacher.

“Clearly, age discrimination has been a factor for many people,” she says. “We have a law on the books against it, but if an employer prefers to hire younger workers for any reason, it can be easier to find a young worker to fill a job who might be willing to work for lower pay.”

There are also employers who discriminate against those who are unemployed for any length of time, Entmacher adds.

“Because older workers are more likely to have been laid off for long periods of time, that’s another disadvantage,” she says. “In a tough labor market, if you are in a group that experiences discrimination, it’s just harder to get a job. There are more obstacles in the way.” 

Entmacher says Congress can work on creating policies to protect older Americans by banning discrimination against unemployed workers, and suggests retooling work force investment programs, so that they aren’t just geared toward younger workers.

“Those programs should be strengthened and required to address the needs of older people who want to work,” she says. “Some older people have barriers to employment that are caused by the need to submit online applications, even for jobs that don’t require computer skills. Or they don’t know how to use LinkedIn or other services that are relevant to finding a job today, because it’s been so long since they’ve looked for jobs that they’re not familiar with current techniques. So, while some people will need retraining for careers, others could benefit from simpler services.”

But don't curl up in the fetal position quite yet. All hope is not lost. We spoke with Dr. Lois Frankel, author of See Jane Lead and Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office, for advice on finding a job.

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