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New Report: Familiar Challenges for Older Jobseekers

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Older jobseekers face challenges
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The share of the workforce ages 65 and older is growing, but a new Public Policy Institute (PPI) report reveals that jobseekers in this age group continue to face challenges in their search for work.

Among those challenges:

Age discrimination. A recent AARP survey has found age discrimination to be widespread. Unemployed respondents were more likely to say they had seen or experienced age discrimination than those working, and 38 percent of unemployed respondents believe they had not been hired for a job due to their age. Compared with people in other age groups, discouraged workers ages 65 and older are more likely to cite age discrimination as the main reason they gave up their job search.

Layoffs, labor market reentry and long-term unemployment. Jobseekers ages 65 and older are more likely than their younger counterparts to say they are unemployed because they were laid off from their previous job. Jobseekers in this age group are also most likely to be reentering the labor market after time spent away. Rebuilding a career after time spent out of the labor force or after a layoff can be tough. This may be one reason why jobseekers ages 55+ are more likely to be long-term unemployed (i.e., being unemployed 27 weeks or longer), presenting additional challenges such as an erosion of skills and career networks. Employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed can also compound age discrimination.

Fewer opportunities for older jobseekers with less education. Over the past decade, labor force participation rates of the 65+ increased across all levels of education but were at the highest levels for the most educated. And while the average age of retirement is higher in the U.S. compared with other countries, this is driven largely by the high labor force participation rates of the most educated. Changing skill requirements or structural job changes may also affect older workers more, as discouraged workers ages 50+ are more likely than their younger counterparts to say they did not think work was available in their area of expertise.


Challenges that Policy Can Address

In an evolving labor landscape that includes rapid change for all workers, how can policymakers and employers help confront the challenges faced by the 65+ jobseeker? First, they can step up their efforts to reduce age discrimination against older jobseekers, which the AARP survey confirms remains disturbingly commonplace. They can also develop strategies that help displaced workers and reentrants get back into employment after time spent out of the workforce, as well as improve access to affordable lifelong learning and education. Such changes can benefit both older workers and the economy as a whole.


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Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers ages 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.

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