Approximately 3,000 individuals braved the cold and an unexpected snow flurry outside Atlanta’s Fox Theatre in late March to attend AARP’s job fair for older job-seekers. Components of the job fair, Helping Experience Work @ 50+, included career counseling, resume preparation, workshops and access to several local employers looking to hire older workers.
Many of the participants at the job fair had already been out of work for several months when the first signs of recession started impacting the economy. As AARP member Jimmie Browner shared, he has been out of work for approximately two years. He lost his job as a branch manager when his employer, a janitorial services company, trimmed their workforce when their clients reduced or eliminated services. In the meantime, Mr. Browner has been working part-time in security but is eager to return to working full-time.
When asked about the AARP job fair, Mr. Browner appreciated that it was designed to serve older adults. Many of the other job fairs he has attended over the past several months have catered to younger job-seekers.
Other attendees expressed concern about a jobless recovery or the kinds of jobs they can find when the economy recovers. Brenda, age 58 and an AARP member, said the AARP job fair was more focused on providing training rather than providing access to potential employers who could utilize her skills. “I already have a college degree,” she said. “I am already a certified teacher. If I did not own my home and my car, I would be in deep trouble.” While willing to change careers, she acknowledged the difficulty of doing so at her age and as a woman.
There is reason to worry. According to a recent AARP report, unemployment among older workers increased in February and frustration among older job-seekers rose sharply. In 2009, the unemployment rate for those over 55 dropped steadily from 7.2% to 6.8%; however, in February, it rose to 7.1%.
On average, duration of unemployment among older workers has remained high, contributing to increased frustration among older workers. “The worst part is that it takes older workers an average of 36 to 37 weeks to find a job,” said Janie Walker, associate state director for AARP Georgia.
AARP will be holding job fairs across the country to help older workers succeed in a challenging job market. AARP plans to hold another job fair in Atlanta in August 2010.