While finding a new job is a difficult task for nearly everyone who has been unemployed, it's especially tough on older workers, new research finds.
Half of those between the ages of 45 and 70 who've been unemployed during the past five years are still out of work, according to a study from AARP. Specifically, 38 percent remained unemployed, while 12 percent decided to stop working.
"As the economy continues to recover and the unemployment rate falls, there are still far too many people struggling," Debra Whitman, AARP's chief public policy officer, said in a statement. "Many Americans want to work as long as possible, but our survey confirms that, once unemployed, it can take a long time for older workers to find a quality job."
Overall, 45 percent of jobseekers over the age of 55 were out of work for at least 27 weeks. The research revealed several strategies that could be contributing to the success of those who have been able to find new jobs.
The reemployed were more likely than the unemployed to contact employers directly and to reach out to their networks of contacts to find jobs. By comparison, the reemployed were less likely to rely on relatives and friends to find out about job opportunities. [Unemployed? 5 Ways to Keep Your Job Search Alive ]
Other strategies that were effective for those who found work included:
- Using a headhunter
- Consulting professional associations
- Checking online job boards
- Using online social networks
- Visiting a public employment agency
When searching for new jobs, older workers need to be prepared to find a position in a new field. Occupational change was a common occurrence among the reemployed, with more than half having a job different from the one they had before becoming unemployed.
"Some of those 'occupational transitions' may have been the result of a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting," the study's authors wrote. "In most cases, however, the change was probably necessary to find a job."
Finding new jobs, however, didn't always translate into a return to normalcy for older workers.Among those who did find work, 48 percent were earning less money than in their previous jobs. The study revealed that the longer they were out of work, the larger the impact it had on their earning power. Nearly 60 percent of the reemployed who suffered a long-term spell of unemployment were earning less in their current job, compared with 41 percent who had been among the short-term unemployed.
While they may have suffered financially, not everything about their new jobs was a step backward for older workers.
Nearly half had better working conditions, while nearly 40 percent said the number of hours they worked and their shift were better. The study also discovered that roughly one-third of the reemployed said their current jobs provided more use of their experience, education and skills, more autonomy and more responsibility than their old jobs.
"As the results of this study indicate, the unemployment experiences of older workers are varied and their outcomes uncertain," the study's authors wrote. "More detailed analyses of the data are needed to help us better understand the plight of the older unemployed, even as the economy recovers, and to develop meaningful policies and programs to help them."
The study was based on surveys of 2,492 people between the ages of 45 and 70 who had been unemployed at some time during the past five years.