Posted on | November 19, 2010
This great recession has affected millions in this country but for those 50 and older, the impact has been greater and the long-term effects may be more daunting. Former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan once said that “what the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.” In light of our current economic times, how can America fulfill on its promise to those we deem “older Americans?”
The havoc and destructiveness of the recession has affected all demographic groups, however older Americans, those 50 and older, have had the greatest price to pay. This group has experienced unprecedented economic loss, high unemployment and the longest duration of collecting unemployment since the Great Depression. These workers, these neighbors, these friends that we all know, may be the unintended victims of these times, the collateral damage of this recession.
You might ask, “who are these folks who have been out of work for 99 weeks?” They come from all walks of life, and have varying educational backgrounds. They are our teachers, mechanics, engineers, financial analysts, and factory workers. They are us, it could have been us, and it still can. We as a community must be their shepherd in understanding their setbacks and make deliberate and concerted efforts to get them back to work.
The highest unemployment rate on record for people 55 and older was 7.2 percent and was reached in December 2009. This is over 14 percent higher than any other recessionary period since World War II (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This recession has also brought the longest duration of joblessness on record for those 55 and older. The average duration of unemployment for this population at the start of the recession in December 2007, was 20.2 weeks. In July 2010 this number more than doubled to 40.6 weeks. (AARP). Typically Unemployment Insurance is only for 26 weeks but has been extended for up to 99 weeks for the large number of individuals who have been unable to secure employment.
According to the CT Department of Labor, nearly 20,000 Connecticut workers have exhausted 99 weeks of benefits— 48.6% are 50 years of age and older. Few Americans know what it is like to be unemployed for almost two years. The long-term unemployed often feel disconnected from their career. Businesses continue to adjust to new economic challenges by becoming leaner in an effort to remain competitive. The result is workers watch their skills become less relevant. Many choose to isolate themselves which frequently leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Their future looks more daunting.
What is emerging from this recession is a once-vibrant class whose savings and assets have been eroded, and who cannot find work. One of the painful realities of the recession is that with so many unemployed and vying for so few jobs, employers have their pick of candidates. Employers must be fair and not get distracted by an individual’s age. They must look at their skill, and what they can be if trained properly.
We as a community must build awareness and sound a rally call to find solutions to help our brethren. The US workforce system is at its capacity with the nearly 15 million unemployed in America. At some point, employers as well as state and federal departments of labor must do what is necessary to welcome older workers back into this new economy.
Things will get better. The WorkPlace, Inc. sees this as part of our responsibility. We will seek the best advice and counsel from our community and create a Blue Ribbon-level committee of citizens to best serve this emerging class. We will undertake a thoughtful comprehensive plan to reform our One Stop system to accommodate the needs of this group. I expect to lay out a plan at our upcoming board of directors meeting later this month.
We need to empower this group to restore their careers and maintain their dignity. We will do it and they will rise again.
Joseph M. Carbone is President and Chief Executive Officer of The WorkPlace, Inc., an innovative workforce development board which helps people prepare for careers and develops the workforce for employers in Southwestern Connecticut. The WorkPlace, Inc. serves more than 32,000 people and 400 businesses a year in a 20-town region bridging Fairfield and New Haven counties. It also has projects that cover the entire state of Connecticut, several states across the nation, and in Latin America.
JobsOver50 is a free web-based employment service for Baby Boomers & Retirees. We understand the employment needs of 50+ job seekers and have built this unique powerful service to support them.
JobsOver50 is a proud member of the GoliathJobs Network, the #1 employment service on the Web!
Under our Government and Workforce Development Program, we offer dedicated Mature Worker Employment Portals branded & customized for WIBs, Area Agencies, Workforce Development and Civic Organizations throughout the United States. These portals are simple, yet powerful, and include all the features necessary to connect local employers with mature workers. Timing is important not only because of the volume of candidates out-of-work but also because there are several grants that can pay for this initiative.
Included with each Mature Worker Portal is free Internship Consulting. This benefit will enable you to build a local team of Marketing & IT students to assist you in launching and rolling out the program if necessary. This unique model delivers powerful results significantly improving workforce development in any region! Learn more by visiting demo page at http://jobsover50.com/wibportal/.