Older Workers Remain Unemployed Longer

The ranks of laid off older workers are swelling faster than those of the young

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Older workers continue to enjoy more job security than their younger counterparts. While the unemployment rate for the total labor force was 9.4 percent in May, only 6.7 percent of workers age 55 and older were out of work. But the ranks of unemployed older workers have been swelling faster than those of younger employees over the past month. The unemployment rate increased 6.1 percent for the senior workers, compared to 5.7 percent for those under age 55, according to an AARP Public Policy Institute analysis.

Once unemployed, it is more difficult for people over age 55 to find new jobs. Older workers continue to remain out of work longer than younger employees. The average duration of unemployment was 27.7 weeks for those age 55 and over in May, compared to 22.4 weeks for those under age 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These figures are an increase of over one week for the older age group, but a slight decline for workers under age 55. About 36 percent of the older potential workers were dealing with long-term unemployment lasting 27 weeks or more in May, versus 27 percent of the younger Americans looking for employment. In December 2007, before the recession began, only 23 percent of the older unemployed and 17 percent of the younger were unemployed long-term.

Workers age 55 and older made up nearly 2 million of the approximately 14.5 million Americans out of work and looking for a job in May, according to the AARP. Evidence is mounting that many older workers are continuing to seek work during the traditional retirement years. Among people age 65 and older the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in May, which is down from a record high of 6.8 percent in February 2009, but still nearly double the 3.3 percent unemployment rate in December 2007.