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The situation for the long-term unemployed, especially for older workers, has gone from being very painful to extremely desperate.

Annie Lowrey, in an excellent New York Times article titled Caught in a Revolving Door of Unemployment, notes that long-term joblessness is now one of the defining realities of the American work force. She described long-term unemployment as a trap that becomes more and more difficult to escape with each passing month.

She also points out that "a newly jobless worker has about a 20 to 30 percent chance of finding a new job. By the time he or she has been out of work for six months, though, the chance drops to one in 10, according to the research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco." Can you imagine the odds for someone who's been out of work for 5 years --- since the crash in 2008 ---especially if they're over 55 years old?

Megan Woolhouse at the Boston Globe: "Rand Ghayad is a Northeastern University researcher and visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who has published groundbreaking work on long-term unemployment. Ghayad mailed 4,800 fictitious resumes and recorded employer response rates, and concluded that companies frequently screen out applicants who are unemployed for more than six months.

Ghayad found that employers showed four times more interest in candidates unemployed for six months or less — even if they had less experience and fewer qualifications than those experiencing longer bouts of joblessness. Older unemployed workers, he found, were most frequently passed over, viewed as having outdated skills or as being “damaged goods.”

“I believe workers aged 55 and older are not only suffering from unemployment discrimination, but also age discrimination, which is making it nearly impossible for them to find work in this sluggishly growing economy,” Ghayad said. “Long-term unemployment among older workers should be our priority as a nation.”

A great many of the long-term unemployed have been ultimately forced out of the labor force, with no place to turn, depleting retirement savings, or collecting Social Security early, or turning to public assistance. Many also suffer debilitating depression, and in the worst cases become suicidal, feeling as if they have failed or no longer have value.

Right now, there are few services and institutions dedicated to helping the long-term unemployed, heightening the isolation they likely feel.

A research paper by Ghayad and William Dickens (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston) showed that the long-term unemployed are struggling to find work, no matter how many job openings there are. In an interview for the Wall Street Journal Ghayad says, "Once you are long-term unemployed, nobody calls you back."

In an exposé by The Atlantic, they found that employers intentionally screen out the long-term unemployed, even if their résumé has the same work experience as someone unemployed for less than six months.

Josh Boak, and AP economics writer, says "For people who've been out of work for more than six months, the outlook has gone from painful to desperate. More than four years after the last recession ended, long-term unemployment remains near record levels, with 4.1 million Americans out of work for more than six months and still struggling to find jobs. What makes the problem so vexing is these workers, typically older, have qualifications that should provide the path to employment, namely experience, accomplishment, and college degrees."

Aldo Svaldi at The Denver Post writes, "More than 6 million workers had exhausted their unemployment benefits at the end of last year, with a disproportionate share of that group over age 50. Employers don't readily admit to discrimination, but it shows up in not-so-subtle ways --- such as job postings that say "must be currently employed". The longer someone stays unemployed, the more depleted they become — financially, professionally and mentally."

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office released last year, workers 55 and older have experienced consistently longer periods of unemployment than younger workers, as employers seek cheaper labor and look to skirt potentially higher health care costs.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study identified employer reluctance to hire older workers as a key challenge that older workers face in finding reemployment. The GAO also found that the number of workers age 55 and over experiencing long-term unemployment has grown substantially since the recession first began in 2007. Other findings from their report:

  • Individuals age 55 and over have consistently experienced longer durations of unemployment than younger workers.
  • The median length of unemployment has more than tripled for older workers.
  • Several experts interviewed said long-term unemployment diminishes the likelihood that older workers will ever be re-employed.
  • Long-term unemployed older workers who exhaust unemployment benefits before turning 62 are particularly at great risk.
  • The effects of job loss are likely to be longer-lasting for older workers, including them being more likely to lose subsequent jobs and experience additional unemployment spells.
  • Losing their jobs has taken a toll on their sense of self-worth, reduced their standard of living, and put them at risk of long-term financial hardship.
  • Long-term unemployed older workers struggled to pay health insurance premiums and some said they had found it difficult to secure private insurance because of high costs or preexisting conditions. Many had forgone seeking medical care altogether, and stopped taking prescribed medications because they could not afford them.

A study by the Urban Institute also reported that older adults took longer to find work when they lost their jobs; and that wage losses were especially steep for unemployed workers in their fifties who managed to become re-employed:

  • Adults in their fifties spent more time unemployed than their younger counterparts.
  • Half of workers age 50 to 61 who became unemployed spent at least six months out of work.
  • It took more than nine months of job search for half of unemployed adults age 50 to 61 to find work
  • Unemployed adults in their fifties were about a fifth less likely than their counterparts age 25 to 34 to become reemployed. (See conclusions on page 5)

A newer study from the Urban Institute shows that even if the economy returns to full employment, many workers are still likely to face long-term unemployment --- 40.5 percent of long-term unemployed job seekers are age 16 to 25. This suggests that the youngest job seekers are likely to experience shorter spells of unemployment.

According to an op-ed by economists Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett in the New York Times (which was also referred to in a congressional hearing for older workers*) a worker between the ages 50 and 61, and who had been unemployed for 17 months or longer, only had about a 9 percent chance of ever finding a new job. And the longer they were unemployed, the lower their chances for ever finding work again.

Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, concurs: "The longer you’re unemployed, the more likely you are to leave the labor force, and the more likely it’s an early retirement for you.”

* A few statements made at the Congressional hearing last year for older workers who were long-term unemployed:

  • Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) "While Americans were hit hard by this recession, the ramifications for older workers are particularly severe. Once older workers lost their jobs, they struggled far more than other groups to find work again."
  • Charles A. Jeszeck at the U.S. Government Accountability Office: "An October 2011 AARP survey of workers age 50 and over found that nearly a quarter said that they had used all of their savings during the past three years. Further, long-term unemployed workers nearing age 62 may opt to claim benefits earlier than they would have if they had still been working. Claiming benefits early, particularly for life-long low earners, can increase the risk of poverty at older ages."
  • Joseph Carbone, President and CEO of The WorkPlace: "It's compounded for older workers. They're dealing with the stigma of being older. They're dealing with the prejudices that come with it, with the discrimination that comes with it [and the] perception that lots of folks have that you're looking for something for nothing --- or your skills are too dull to be of help to anybody. It's a challenge if you're under 50. It's a category 5 hurricane if you're over 50." (In an interview for PBS Carbone also said "They're carrying a double whammy, not just the long-term unemployment, but they're 50 and older.)
  • Christine Owens - Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project: "When they [older workers] become unemployed they are more likely to remain so and to remain so for longer periods of time. Moreover, older unemployed workers are three times as likely as younger unemployed workers to become unemployed because they have lost their jobs."

Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey says:

"There is really no demographic age group that has as much difficulty getting back in the job market if they lose a job. There is definitely bias against older workers, even if you have skills. They are depressed. They can't deal with rejection anymore. Many of them are requiring food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance. There has been a high early-enrollment in Social Security, which is a lifetime punishment for people who are forced to do this, because many are taking roughly one-third less at 62."

AARP's Public Policy Institute surveyed unemployed baby boomers and found that while 71% blamed their unemployment on the bad economy, almost half also said they believed age discrimination was at play.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study identified employer reluctance to hire older workers as a key challenge that older workers face in finding reemployment.

Since the Great Recession began, many older workers have been out of work for five years or longer, caught between a rock and a hard place, because no one will hire them and they are not yet old enough to qualify for regular Social Security.

All in all, the Baby Boomers were the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath. These Americans in their 50s and early 60s --- those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security --- have lost the most earnings power of any age group.

And a study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security, also lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.

Many older workers have run through their retirement savings: One survey of post 50s found 25 percent had used up all of their savings between 2007 and 2010. And those who are forced to take Social Security at age 62 are stuck at a lower benefit for life. According to the GAO report, someone who exited the workforce at that age would receive a median monthly benefit of $909 -– compared to $1,212 for people who wait to take Social Security until age 66.

Researchers found that the long-term unemployed will suffer deep mental and emotional scars from the experience. A Gallup study in the Economic Journal found that those who were out of work for at least a year took longer to recover emotionally than those who had lost a spouse. The results showed quantifiable declines in their health, their self-esteem and their overall emotional well-being. One Gallop Poll showed unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like are about twice as likely as Americans who are employed full time to be depressed.

Research also suggests that long-term unemployed Baby Boomers may die sooner too, because their health, their income security and their mental well-being were battered by the Great Recession at a crucial time in their lives. The study cited also found that for people in that age group, the long-term unemployed were also more prone to suicide.

The New York Times: Suicides Spike 30% for Baby Boomers:

  • Suicide rates among middle-age Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern for a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry.
  • The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent.
  • It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide.

The consequences of unemployment has been be far-reaching, as we've seen from this last recession with a higher-than-usual increase in suicides. Many people reported that they had lost or feared losing loved ones.

"The rate of suicide in the United States rose sharply during the first few years since the start of the recession, a new analysis has found. In the report, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, the study found. The analysis found that the link between unemployment and suicide was about the same in all regions of the country."

So for many of the long-term unemployed, they're situation has not only become fatalistic, it's been fatal.

* See my most recent post about the current  job numbers for November
2013:
Jobs Report: Lipstick on an Economic Pig

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Comment Preferences

    •  Not for me, create 20 million jobs (5+ / 0-)

      We 55 and overs want to do something, preferably something challenging, fun, and rewarding.

      I simply refuse to go down like that.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 12:43:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We could probably pilot drones if only we could (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, Horace Boothroyd III

        stay awake long enough :)

        I'm high on the REAL thing: powerful gasoline, a clean windshield, and a shoeshine.

        by here4tehbeer on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:41:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's a great idea... (8+ / 0-)

        for those who, in their early 60's and after 5 years of unemployment, can still DO physical work.  If you remember, throughout this "Great Recession" many of us have pushed for a new WPA... often in the context of infrastructure improvement.  Of course, we've gotten neither.

        BEFORE the great recession, my hubby worked 16+ years for a major corp.. not a high paying job, either... but he had finally gotten close to $30k/year.  Another major corp bought them out and... over the course of 6 months... managed to "lay off" most of the "high earners."  These just happened to be people like my hubby -- NOT the mega-million $$$ CEOs, of course!

        A three year stint as a contract help desk tech at the start of the recession, and he hasn't worked since then.  That's 5+ years.  We've used his retirement savings, as well as the savings we were building towards buying a house for cash near my job (in another city), to make up the difference between my meager salary and our (new) reality, including redefining "luxury."

        Luckily, I have decent med insurance on us both.  It's expensive for us now, but we'll have had four major surgeries (when I have my hip replacement on 27 Dec) between us since October.  Despite the pain and inability to walk even with a cane some days, I'm still  doing a 90 minute round-trip commute to work when I'm able, and trying to help my elderly mom before I head home at night.

        I believe all this worry and anxiety was at least a contributing factor to my husband having a heart attack.   And, after this much time and the amount of physical pain I've had to manage during that time, the worry and anxiety is showing on me, too.  Heck... he may be 61, but at 59, I'm not that far behind him!

        Some of us boomers are not going to be able to keep going into our 70 and 80's, no matter how "easy" the work would be.  The great recession did more than just cause depression amongst the long-term unemployed.  All the stress manifests in physical conditions, as well... and not just on the unemployed, but the family around them, as well.

        In addition, there are simply NOT enough jobs to go around for everyone, now that the corps have changed the work paradigm on us.  I'd rather see people like me and my husband given retirement with a lowered SS and medicare age.. and increased SS payment (even tho I LOVE my job), and free up openings that would impact all down the line.  Take my job, give it to someone experienced in the field from the generation after me, and give HER job to someone in the generation after HER, etc.  In this way, ALL age groups get a boost back to middle class.

      •  Many in my economic class (3+ / 0-)

        Will never be able to retire. And the physical act of doing their jobs is well beyond their physical conditions.

        Plus it would open up those jobs for all those unemployed in the younger age ranges.

    •  How about tax credits to employers who extend (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch

      job offers to those over 50 instead?  I agree with Roger Fox.

      As someone who once hired people, I know that major employers respond to that carrot, at least to some degree.

      Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

      by Keith930 on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:13:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Serious job creation leads to employers (3+ / 0-)

        competing for employees, this leads to wage growth. Thats all I want for everyone. Me, I'm beating the odds, not everyone can do the things I do.

        Many of us, not ready to retire..... are fully capable of kicking major ass in the business world.

        In fact read my comment to VClib, I have made great strides in bucking this trend in the over 55 age group.

        I've been away from the Golf Course bizz for 20 years, not only did I get an entry level job on a golf course, I got a promotion after 1 month, and got a good offer for 2014 in management. Basically jumped over 11 people, and will be at the same level as a guy 16 yrs my Jr.

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:43:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have done it for numerous friends (11+ / 0-)

    If you have a very senior position in a private company, of any size, you can help your friends by providing them with a resume filler to close up their gaps of unemployment. You can hire them as a 1099 consultant, but give them a title and have them work on a project or two. The resume doesn't need a lot of detail, just someone (you) who will take a reference call or email and answer it. That allows your friends to not be automatically screened out for being a long term unemployed.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 11:53:25 AM PST

    •  You're a mensch for doing that, given that it's a (5+ / 0-)

      matter of life and death for many people in this economy. Long-term unemployment is now almost as bad as having a felony criminal record when it comes to employment, and dog help you if you have both strikes against you.

      Hope more employers take your model and help out professional people who are in similar desperate straits for no reason of their own doing. Meanwhile, of course, working class folks have no such options, for the most part.

      "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by Kombema on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 12:19:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've included volunteering in campaigns (4+ / 0-)

      Though I dont use the word volunteer.

      In my most recent period of unemployment, I have organized a food drive and was Montclair NJ Field Director for Ron Rice for Congress.

      Funny.... cause the food drive was for Occupy Wall St, once a week we drove in to Zucotti Park with food, about 600 meals all told....

      Thats a cool thing you did VC.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 12:41:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  These are all people I have worked with in the (7+ / 0-)

        past. I know they have a great work ethic, and are talented. I am happy to give them a great recommendation. I have given them titles like Senior Adviser or Senior Analyst and had them do at least one assignment so I can honestly say I paid them. It's made a difference. As a senior myself I find the discrimination against older and unemployed workers reprehensible.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 12:46:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  @55 I've run into some of that discrimination (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          Maybe a bit less than others because I don't look 55, & I have the energy of a 30 year old. Now that I'm back in the Golf Course business, the stigma of being away from the business for so long is removed, though I still expect to fight the "your too old" fight.

          In my 1st season back, I got a promotion into management (2nd Assistant GC Super), nearly at the same level I was at "back in the day", suggesting I have what it takes to ultimately find a job as a Golf Course Superintendent.

          Plus this is my field of academic endeavor. Yeah I'm bucking the trends, but I don't care, I'm swinging for the fences.

          .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:31:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  More gruel, please? (6+ / 0-)

    Good diary, Bud.  There have been absolutely no policy proposals from DC to deal with this issue, even though everyone there knows about it.

    As Alan Grayson famously said, every politician, on both sides of the aisle, seems to be crossing their fingers and hoping we "die quickly."

    That's all they've got in their policy hat.  

    I still get requests for campaign donations, though.  So, I guess they haven't completely forgotten me.

    Yes...there is that small consolation.

    Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

    by Keith930 on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:21:35 PM PST

  •  I used to be an architectural designer (7+ / 0-)

    Now I have a small pool-cleaning service in Las Vegas.  I'm so pissed about being repeatedly laid off that I will never go to work for an hourly wage or salary again.  Lost our life savings when my wife became very ill in the nineties because of a health insurance policy that only paid about 30% of the actual medical costs...we had managed to save a small amount since then until our 401K went into the toilet in 2008 and the money into the pocket of some Wall-Street insider.

    I'm tired of carrying some other asshole on my shoulders as I go through this world...some other asshole who believes he has a natural-born right to profit from my labor.  Some day the worm is going to turn.  

    Yes, “there’s class warfare, all right,” warns Warren Buffett. “But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

    by pecosbob on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:27:59 PM PST

  •  Programmers, Engineers, Scientists Scrambling (9+ / 0-)

    Many many people with masters and phds would leap at the chance for a $15 an hour job.

    It's pretty hard to convince young people that they should take an interest in STEM degrees when Uncle Phil who's been living on the sofa is a physicist.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:34:04 PM PST

  •  Thanks Bud for another great diary (0+ / 0-)

    Well-sourced, informative, and well-organized.  Thank you for your work.

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