We Sure Could use some Upbeat News about Employment Prospects in the So-Called Golden Years...


Friday, April 19 ...But this ain’t it.

Maria Heidkamp, Senior Project manager for the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, has published a blog entry stating that of the nearly two million people over the age of 55 who were still unemployed, nearly half  fell into the long-term unemployed range, meaning they had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

Here at JVS, the long-term unemployed are our primary clients and – as anyone who has been in that particular situation knows – it is a miserable and appalling position to be in no matter whether you are 20 years old, 70 or anywhere in between. Heidkamp references the Heldrich Center’s Director Carl Van Horn and his book “Working Scared (Or Not at All): The Lost Decade, Great Recession, and Restoring the Shattered American Dream" which interviews a number of long-term unemployed and reports their stories. Also referenced: a report by the Heldrich Center’s Kathy Krepcio and Michele M. Martin who examine whether the workforce system is due for “incremental realignment or serious reform.”

You can only imagine (and JVSWorks has covered this ground before) how much more difficult long-term unemployment must be for someone considered “older” by employers. Because the labor market and the job search process have shifted so dramatically since the Recession, the “churn and volatility” of the market means that those who used to work full time must now accept part time or temporary employment and figure out ways to reinvent or re-brand themselves, just as younger job seekers must do.

Heidkamp discusses the “de-skilling (of) the older workforce” whereby older job seekers have settled for employment that essentially constitutes a downgrade in their skill set. So you’ve got a supermarket clerk who used to do marketing for a pharmaceutical company, an airport van driver who used to be a newspaper editor, etc. This “de-skilling” trend in older workers is, per research by Canadian economists Paul Beaudry, David A. Green and Benjamin M. Sand, on the rise.

“Many other older job seekers can’t seem to get a  break at all,” Heidkamp writes. “Recently published research…suggests that their problem is not that they insist on pay commensurate with their experience, but rather that employers believe they will do so, and suspect, as well, that their skills will prove to be out of date.”

“We need to rethink a public workforce system that can make lifelong learning and far better career navigation possible for those in transition (read unemployed)," she concludes - "a state of being that may become the new normal as we all become constant job seekers.”