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Boomer employment and the recession

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Unemployment statistics are grim everywhere, but older boomers experienced a less devastating rate in December than other age groups. Still, as the national unemployment rate soared to 7.2 percent, those 55 and older saw the highest monthly unemployment rate (4.9 percent) since October 1992.

More of the good news: According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, citing facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed persons age 55 and older was higher by more than 875,000 in December 2008 than in December 2007.

“The difference may reflect the fact that many older adults want jobs. Today, with their 401(k) plan assets down sharply, the decline in traditional employer-sponsored pension and retiree health plans, the increase in Social Security’s retirement age, and housing values not worth what they once were, many baby boomers are either delaying retirement or seeking a return to the workforce,” said Joan Strewler-Carter and Stephen Carter, co-founders of the Life Options Institute in a recent press statement.

More of the bad news: Researchers at AARP estimate older workers who lose their jobs will often drop out of labor force altogether, increasing the long-term unemployment rate for older workers. The AARP Public Policy Institute cites Bureau of Labor Statistics in a January report, saying the number of older persons classified as discouraged nearly tripled between December 2007 and December 2008, rising from 53,000 to 154,000.

Historically, boomers have experienced a more devastating blow this recession compared to the last. During the last recession from March to November 2001, the unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older rose from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent; this time around, the rate has risen from 3.1 percent to 4.9 percent, or an increase of 58 percent.


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