NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oldest Baby Boomers Face Jobs Bust

December 30, 2011

Older baby boomers are trying to postpone retirement, as many worry their savings will be insufficient to last their entire retirement.  Though unemployment among those older than age 55 is lower than the national rate, the portion that is unemployed, underemployed or discouraged has increased drastically in recent years.  Furthermore, those who have been lucky enough to keep jobs are slowly being pushed out of the market as employers look for younger, cheaper workers, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • Among workers ages 55 to 64, 6.5 percent were unemployed as of October of 2011 -- more than twice the jobless rate for that group five years ago.
  • When including those who are underemployed (working part-time or accepting a pay cut) and those who are discouraged (those who would like a job but have not looked in the past month), this figure rises to 17.4 percent, or 4.3 million Americans.
  • Among those workers over age 55, more than half have been searching for jobs for more than two years, while this figure is only 31 percent for younger workers.
  • Among those older workers who were able to find jobs, 72 percent report having taken a pay cut, often a big one.

The problem of unemployment among older Americans is particularly troubling for several reasons.  Perhaps most important, older workers have less time to save for the large expenses associated with retirement.  This problem is compounded by the fact that large numbers of older workers, in order to bridge employment gaps, have been forced to dip into money that was originally set aside for retirement.

Additionally, older Americans fear the onset of diseases and other medical concerns that will have the dual effect of compromising their ability to work and increasing their financial liabilities.  These factors bring to the forefront the troublesome nature of unemployment among the oldest workers.

Source: E.S. Browning, "Oldest Baby Boomers Face Jobs Bust," Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2011.

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