Part 5 of our Unemployment Series – Older Workers Show Better Rates of Unemployment, Yet Remain Unemployed Long-Term if Unemployed

On the positive side, on average, older workers (those aged 55 and over) show lower rates of unemployment; however, if unemployed experience longer durations of unemployment compared to their younger counterparts, according to a report on unemployed older workers. [i] In the final of our blog series on unemployment amongst American work groups, we explore the employment situation for older workers.

The unemployment situation for older workers is somewhat disparate. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its most recent Jobs Report, the national unemployment rate held at 7.9 percent in January, and the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was about 4.7 million and accounted for 38.1 percent of the unemployed. [ii] Of these workers, older workers fair much better in terms of unemployment rates when compared to younger work groups, such as those 25 to 54. For instance, men aged 55 and over held an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in January 2013; this compares to 6.6 percent of men aged 25 to 54. [iii] Women show an even better rate, at 5.9 percent, compared to 6.8 percent for those in the younger age bracket of 25 to 54. [iii]

But on the adverse side, older workers aged 55 and older who do become unemployed have faced the longest-terms of unemployment, which was further established in a report on unemployed older workers by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in 2012. [i]

While the report stipulates that older workers experience lower unemployment rates, a fact confirmed by the BLS unemployment numbers each month, it also states that the duration of unemployment for older workers has also increased since the downturn in the jobs market. [i] (The GAO attributes lower unemployment with older workers having longer job tenure, and consequently are less likely to be laid off than younger workers.)

“Prior to the recession, the median duration of unemployment for job seekers age 55 and over was 10 weeks compared with 9 weeks for job seekers aged 25-54. By 2011, the median duration of unemployment for older job seekers had increased to 35 weeks compared with 26 weeks for younger job seekers. In 2007, less than a quarter of unemployed older workers were unemployed for longer than 27 weeks. By 2011, this number had increased to 55 percent. Moreover, by 2011 over one-third of all unemployed older workers had been unemployed for over a year.” [iii]

As with many diversity work groups, each have their own unique challenges when it comes to employment. And for older workers, one may be how to combat finding work if unemployed.


[i] United States Government Accountability Office, page 5. Report on Unemployed Older Workers

[ii] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, A-35. Unemployed total and full-time workers by duration of unemployment

[iii] U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-10. Selected unemployment indicators, seasonally adjusted

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