'Jobs are back, just not for everybody'

April 6, 2011
By: Vicki Bell

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a septuagenarian who is currently enrolled in an MBA program. This former president and CEO of a textile manufacturing company is making straight As. He also is actively looking for a job, having separated from his former company six years ago. 

I've known "Jim" for a few years, and we talk frequently about his search. At times, his prospects look hopeful—he just interviewed for two jobs—but more often than not, bleak—he was passed over for both. Yet he continues to look and to remain positive. 

I've often wondered how he can maintain such an optimistic outlook, particularly in this tough economy. Today I read something that made me think his optimism might be well-founded. It offered me hope for Jim and those of us who might one day find ourselves looking for jobs in our sixties and beyond. But if you're middle-aged, that's a different story.

Published on usnews.com, the article "Why the Middle-Aged Are Missing Out on New Jobs," declared that jobs are back, just not for everybody. While the job market finally is recovering—216,000 were added in March for a total of about 1.9 million new jobs since employment levels bottomed out at the end of 2009—progress is uneven and some people are being left out.

Most of the new jobs created since the end of 2009 are going to workers under the age of 34 or over the age of 55. Employment levels for middle-aged workers are stagnant or still falling.

According to the report, job gains for workers under 35—about 1.2 million in total—seem to be healthy and normal for this point in a recovery. But workers over the age of 55 are snagging the most new jobs—1.3 million in the last 15 months.

For the middle-aged, a red sports car may be the last thing on your mind as the stereotypical midlife crisis becomes the midlife job crisis. Workers between the ages of 45 and 54 still are losing jobs—about 364,000 in this age group so far this year. 

Almost as interesting as the article were comments from a 60-year-old reader who wrote about the jobs going to seniors. Going by the alias "55+ McJobs," this reader said, "Seventy-seven percent of last year's new jobs paid $7.25/hr to $15/hr, often with no benefits.

"My guess is that's where most 55+ jobs were. At one point last year I, 60 in October, was offered a McJob—even though I wasn't looking for one—because the manager of the business knew I was on a pension with health insurance, and he didn't have to offer me benefits.

"In general there have been a lot of articles about those in their 50s and 60s finding it impossible to get decent jobs [but] many in that age group are at a point where they can either get by on a McJob because they've paid off a mortgage, have no kids at home, and just need some income while waiting for Social Security. Or else they'll take those jobs because they know that's all that's out there for them. 

“However, I also know that seniors are taking jobs from late teen and early 20s workers because they have a history of much better responsibility. The employer knows they'll show up on time, minimize sick days, etc." 

I'm sharing this article with Jim. He likely will be heartened by the statistics, but just as likely will nod in agreement with the commenter. He definitely is looking for something other than a McJob, although there now are many more of those to be had as McDonald's looks to hire up to 50,000 new employees on April 19.

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Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209