Older Worker Unemployment is Increasing Fast

But more older workers have been able to find jobs than their younger counterparts since the recession began


The unemployment rate for people age 55 and over rose from 6.7 percent in May to 7 percent in June. That’s still much lower than the 9.5 percent unemployment rate for the labor force as a whole. But unemployment among older workers grew faster in the past month than younger worker job loss. While unemployment among those under age 55 grew by just 1 percent between May and June, the number of age 55 and older unemployed grew by 4.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Older workers also have a tougher time finding new jobs once they become unemployed. The average duration of unemployment for those age 55 and older in June was 29.9 weeks, over 2 weeks longer than in May. Younger workers were typically unemployed for 21.4 weeks in June, a decline of just over a week since the previous month. About 38 percent of the older workers and 26 percent of the younger workers had been out of work for 27 or more weeks in June.

The good news: Many older workers are able to find jobs. While the total number of employed people in the workforce has fallen by nearly 6.1 million, or 4.2 percent, since the recession began, there has been a 3.5 percent increase in people age 55 and older with jobs. Over 900,000 more older workers had jobs in June than at the start of the recession, according to an analysis by Sara Rix of the AARP Public Policy Institute. The number of people age 55 and older expressing interest in working longer has also increased since the recession began. “Perhaps some older workers would rather not be working but have put off retirement as a result of a decline in their retirement savings. Others are working because they are too young to retire and/or enjoy what they are doing or want to remain involved,” says Rix in her report. “Whatever the reason for remaining in the labor force, these workers are better off than they would be if their employment numbers moved in the same direction as those for their younger counterparts.”