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Unemployment Is High, but Jobs Are Out There

Helping Experience Work@50+ job fair set for Nashville, Sept. 22

• Unemployment has risen more than 300 percent among older people in the past decade.
• Job fairs such as one scheduled for Sept. 22 in Nashville can give older workers tips and leads.
• Health care and green technology are among the hot areas for those seeking work.

When Aaron Sito lost his job of 23 years after a company merger, he little imagined it would take him three years to land another full-time position.

In April 2009 the former pharmaceutical representative took two part-time jobs. One, as a photo specialist for Walgreens in his hometown of Lebanon, became full time in January.

In the months between jobs, Sito, 51, sent out hundreds of resumés and applied for 300 jobs online and through local employment agencies. Simple perseverance led to his present position.

“A new store opened in Lebanon, and I just walked in and said, ‘Hey, need anybody?’ ” he recalled. “The manager saw that I had had plenty of responsibility. I kind of convinced him: ‘Here is what I am willing to do—whatever it takes.’ ”

Sito has made the best of the situation. “I’d done well in my career. We had been able to save, and my wife was working part time, so we didn’t have fear of a financial crisis. We were prepared for this type of a thing.”

With Tennessee’s unemployment rate over 10 percent, it takes a lot to land a new job. For older workers that means perseverance as well as flexibility, networking, training and a willingness to explore new fields.

A recent AARP analysis found a 331 percent increase nationally in unemployment among workers 55 and older during the past decade.

“Unemployment right now is at one of the highest levels we’ve seen since the mid-’80s. People are not only unemployed in large numbers but unemployed over a longer period of time,” said Jeff Hentschel, communications director of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Nevertheless, jobs are out there, especially in the areas of health care and green technology, according to Hentschel.

For job seekers 40 or older, a separate website, Boomer Careers, offers specific information geared to issues faced by older workers in Tennessee.

In collaboration with the Employment Guide and, AARP is sponsoring more than 40 career fairs in the 19 states with the highest unemployment rates for workers over 50.

“The career fairs are about linking older workers with a variety of services and resources as well as allowing them to meet with prospective employers,” said Tara Shaver, AARP Tennessee community outreach director.

A Helping Experience Work@50+ fair will be held Sept. 22 at LP Field in Nashville from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and job seekers can register online.

“The career fair will feature employers with job openings, help with job search strategies and career counseling,” Shaver said.

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