ROCKFORD, Ill. – When Charlie Worboys lost his job, he feared searching for a new one at his age might be tough. Six years later, at 65, he’s still looking.
Luanne Lynch, 57, was laid off three times in the past decade and previous layoffs brought jobs with a lower salary; this time she can’t even get that.
They’re not alone. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds many people older than 50 reporting great difficulty finding work and feeling that their age is a factor.
After Worboys was laid off and his hunt for another teaching job was fruitless, he sought counseling positions. When those leads dried up, he applied for jobs in juvenile detention centers, in sales and elsewhere. He finally settled for part-time work, all the while still scouring online listings and sending out applications each week.
“They look at the number 65, and they don’t bother to look behind it,” he said.
The AP-NORC Center poll found 55 percent of those 50 and older who have sought a job in the past five years characterized their search as difficult, and 43 percent thought employers were concerned about their age. Further, most in the poll reported finding few available jobs (69 percent), few that paid well (63 percent) or that offered adequate benefits (53 percent). About a third were told they were overqualified.
Still, some companies are welcoming older workers, and 43 percent of job seekers surveyed found a high demand for their skills and 31 percent said there was a high demand for their experience. Once on the job, older workers were far more likely to report benefits related to their age — 60 percent said colleagues had come to them for advice and 42 percent said they felt as if they were receiving more respect.
People of all ages have been frustrated by the job market and the unemployment rate for those 55 and older was 5.3 percent in September, lower than the 7.2 percent rate among all ages. By comparison, unemployment among those ages 20 to 24 was 12.9 percent and 6.2 percent among those 25 to 54.
But long-term unemployment has been rampant among the oldest job seekers. Unemployed people ages 45 to 54 were out of work 45 weeks on average, those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks and those 65 and older averaged 51 weeks.
Younger workers were unemployed for shorter periods of time. Sixty-three percent of those who searched for a job cited financial need, and 19 percent said it was because they were laid off. Far smaller numbers searched because they wanted to change careers or find a better salary or benefits.
The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Aug. 8 through Sept. 10 by NORC at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It involved interviews with 1,024 people ages 50 and older. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.