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Older workers aged 55 and up are more likely to face long-term unemployment than younger workers.

These older workers likely face labor market discrimination and only half of older job searchers successfully get jobs, according to new research from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) at the New School for Social Research.

While the U.S. labor market remains quite strong overall, that’s not the same picture for older workers, SCEPA said.

Read: Job report shows gain of 199,000 in November. Wages are still hot.

Since 2010, SCEPA has used its own barometer for unemployment, which includes long-term discouraged workers – those who have not actively searched for a job in the past year but report that they still want one. This inclusion helps paint a clearer unemployment picture, especially when focusing on stigmatized workers, such as older workers, and during recessions, SCEPA found.

Under the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in November 2023, was 5.8 million. That reflected anyone without a job who had actively looked for work in the prior four weeks and was available to work.

Under SCEPA’s yardstick, an additional three million unemployed workers are not included in standard unemployment measures, and one million of these people are 55 and older, according to Drystan Phillips, a SCEPA research associate.

According to SCEPA’s unemployment measure, older workers today account for 23% of the unemployed in November, 2023 up from 16% in 2010. While much of that increase can be attributed to the general aging of the U.S. labor force, the gains in unemployment still outpace the growth in older adults, Phillips said. 

“This discrepancy indicates that while younger workers have seen considerable improvements in job opportunities, older workers have not enjoyed the same benefits,” Phillips said.

Over 35% of long-term discouraged workers are over age 55, he said.

Read: Coming to your job — more older workers

The reasons why this group has been unsuccessful in getting jobs is unclear and requires more research on wages, industries and regions of the country, Phillips said. 

Read: What retirement? Older adults are working more hours for higher pay than in the past.

While much attention has been paid to older workers working longer hours and fetching higher wages than in the past, the overall experience for the average older job seeker is bleak, Phillips said. 

“It’s true that there are interesting cases of people battling ageism and having jobs or running a country — that might not reflect an average worker’s experience,” Phillips said.


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