Finding another job was not easy. She told the AARP Bulletin that being in her 50s hindered her efforts to find a job with the "young kids" who interviewed her. So Drummond turned to an eight-week training program aimed at helping job seekers age 50-plus and supported by a grant from AARP Foundation.
Jill Drummond's story is not unique. That's why AARP is heavily invested in helping Americans 50 and older get reemployed, change careers or start a business.
The statistics paint a scary picture for people approaching retirement. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of unemployed who are 55 and older increased more than any other age group. In 2013, it was 70 percent higher than it had been in 2007.
As of January, about 1.5 million people 55 and older were unemployed; 44 percent were long-term unemployed (out of work and job hunting for at least 27 weeks). The average length of unemployment for older job seekers was 44 weeks, more than three months longer than for those under 55. That doesn't count the 228,000 who became discouraged and quit looking.
AARP isn't alone in taking notice. U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said, "Throughout the country, we have millions of people — many of them college-educated professionals — who, despite their most diligent efforts and through absolutely no fault of their own, still can't find work." He called it "one of the greatest challenges facing our economy."
See also: Best employers for workers 50+
This is having a devastating impact on many Americans nearing retirement. Not only are they no longer contributing to their retirement, they are drawing down their savings and taking Social Security earlier than they had planned — and at a lower benefit rate than if they had waited until age 65 or later. This is especially troubling because for 1 in 3 Americans, Social Security provides most or all of their retirement income. This puts people at a greater risk for financial insecurity for the rest of their lives and could cause a significant decline in their standard of living.
AARP is helping by:
- Advocating for the extension of federal unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed job seekers.
- Leading the push for Congress to enact bipartisan legislation to reestablish that age discrimination is unlawful and that age may not be considered in any decision to demote or fire an employee. (See aarp.org/fightback.)
- Working with employers. For example, through Life Reimagined for Work, more than 260 employers have pledged to recruit across all age groups and value experienced workers.
- Encouraging entrepreneurs by working with the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide information and resources to small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to start their own business.
- Focusing on low-income job seekers. AARP Foundation's Back to Work 50+ initiative is working with the American Association of Community Colleges to help people from low-income households gain better jobs through training, education, career counseling and mentoring.
A. Barry Rand is the CEO of AARP.
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