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The decline in public employment also appears to have played a major role in the exodus of middle-aged working women. Between September 2008 and April of this year, 640,000 state and local government workers lost their jobs, according to Labor Department data. Almost half were in education, an industry where a typical employee is a woman in her 40s.
In Chicago, Katherine White was laid off in 2011 from her job teaching writing and history to fifth- and sixth-graders. Initially, her life was a whirl of activity as she fine-tuned her résumé and applied for numerous full-time teaching positions.
Both too young, too old
“I tell you, I really thought I had the job in a lot of cases, and it didn’t happen,” White, 56, said.
In 2012 she accepted a temporary teaching position for one semester. When that job ended, she started firing off résumés again. “No nibbles in over a year,” she said.
“A lot of teachers, we say we’re too young to retire and too old to be competitive with the market out there,” she said. “We’re between a rock and a hard place, and you have to know how to navigate through it and reinvent yourself.”