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Gephardt: Middle-aged workers, especially women, have harder time finding work

By Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV | Posted - Jan. 15, 2021 at 10:01 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY – Nobody wants to lose their job, but for certain people, finding new work is harder than it is for others. People over 50 are having an especially hard time getting back to work.

It is against the law to discriminate against hiring someone based on how old they are — or their gender — but new research shows what many people probably already sense: It happens frequently.

Job loss due to the pandemic has affected millions of Americans of every age however, the impact on older workers is of particular concern said the AARP.

"It takes double the time to find a job," said Susan Weinstock, AARP's vice president of financial resilience.

After the great recession, people 50 and older who lost their jobs sat on the unemployment line twice as long according to the AARP.

"Once they did find that job, they often didn't make the salary that they were making before," Weinstock said. "They ended up taking a pay cut, too, so it was a double whammy."

Right now, 45.6% of all job seekers 55 and over have been looking for a job for six months or longer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The stats are even bleaker for women. Male-dominated industries, like construction, have fared better this pandemic than jobs that skew more towards women, like retail and hospitality.

"Women are put in the very hardest position with this pandemic," Weinstock said.

It is a serious setback for a woman to lose her job later in her career, said the AARP.

"Studies show older women are likely to earn less than men, to have saved less (because of lower earnings), and to have a longer life expectancy, with the health care costs that go with it," AARP said in a statement. "When and if she finds a new position, there's also a likelihood the new job isn't as good as her former one – a condition of underemployment, often related to age and gender discrimination, that worsens her long-term financial outlook."


They're empathetic. They listen better. They're collegial. They're collaborative. These are all skills that you gain as you've been in the workforce for a long time.

–Susan Weinstock, AARP vice president of financial resilience



Advocates like Weinstock said bosses are really missing out on some valuable "soft" qualities if they fish only from the young-worker pond.

"Things like calm under pressure, or problem solvers. They're empathetic. They listen better. They're collegial. They're collaborative. These are all skills that you gain as you've been in the workforce for a long time."

Here in Utah, state records don't specifically break down whether older workers take longer to regain employment.

Utah Workforce Services Chief Economist Mark Knold said, "My instincts say that is so, but no data to confirm."

What data Utah does have said that it was young people who lost their jobs, in large measure, during the Great Recession.

"Fewer older workers lost their jobs during the Great Recession than any other age group," Knold said. "Those who did lose their jobs probably did have a harder time finding new work than the younger."

Between 2008 and 2010, the low point of the Great Recession, the oldest age groups saw employment decline by less than 2 percentage points. By comparison, the 35 to 44 age group fell by nearly 8 percentage points, and groups younger than that by at least 5 or more percentage points.

The AARP is hosting an Online Career Expo on Jan. 28. More information can be found at www.aarp.org/onlinecareerexpo.

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Matt Gephardt
    Sloan Schrage

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