As we celebrate this Labor Day, we are reminded that nothing is more important to our current or future financial well-being than having a job. We are also reminded that for too many people 50-plus, who want and need to work, there is no celebration. This Labor Day is simply one more day when the unemployment office is closed.
Americans 50-plus have been hit hard by the Great Recession. More than 2 million people age 55 and over are unemployed; the unemployment rate for this age group actually reached 7.1 percent in May, the highest it’s been since the late 1940s. Moreover, their average unemployed term now exceeds 10 months. More than half of older job seekers have been out of work for six months or longer, considerably more than the 23 percent at the start of the recession in December 2007. African Americans and Hispanics have been hit especially hard.
AARP is committed to helping people 50-plus remain in the workforce as long as they want or need to work, and that includes fighting age discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court recently made it much more difficult for older workers to prove age discrimination. In a case involving Iowa resident Jack Gross, the court ruled that evidence indicating age was a factor in job discrimination was no longer enough. Now age must be the sole factor. AARP lawyers helped Gross, and we are supporting the Protecting Older Workers Against Age Discrimination Act, which would restore the burden of proof to where it was before the Gross decision.
All of this is happening at a time when people are working longer, either out of choice or necessity, and when the workforce increasingly includes a larger proportion of older workers. A recent U.S. Labor Department report showed that workers over 65 outnumber teenagers in the workforce for the first time since 1948. And AARP’s own research finds that more and more of our members want or need to keep working past traditional retirement age.
This increase in older workers is having a disruptive influence as businesses struggle to find ways to manage getting the most out of a workforce that includes a larger proportion of older workers.
This is an issue we care deeply about at AARP. We have been working for years to help both older workers and employers bridge the gap to an older workforce. We have developed job search strategies, career counseling and information on social networking. With the organization the Employment Guide, we have sponsored over 40 career fairs in 19 high-unemployment states. More than 20,000 people have found jobs through these career fairs.
We believe that anyone 50-plus who wants or needs to work should be able to work. It’s not only essential to achieving financial security, it also benefits our economy. We are committed to that goal and will continue working to achieve it for the benefit of people 50-plus and for all of society.