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The Employment Situation, May 2010: Older Worker Unemployment and Duration of Unemployment Move Upward

According to a new PPI Fact Sheet by Sara E. Rix of the AARP Public Policy Institute, the overall employment situation improved in May with the addition of 431,000 jobs to the economy; however, almost all of the May increase in employment was due to the hiring of temporary employees for the 2010 Census.  Private-sector employment increased by only 41,000.

More persons aged 55 and over had jobs in May than had them in April, but the unemployment rate for this age group nonetheless rose slightly, from 7.0 percent to 7.1 percent.  More than 2.1 million people aged 55 and over were without jobs and looking for work in May, 52,000 more than in the month before.  Involuntary part-time employment, however, fell among older workers in May.

Average duration of unemployment was 1.2 weeks longer in May than in April—44.2 weeks compared to 42.9 weeks.  Nearly six out of ten older job seekers had been out of work for six months or more, substantially above the 23 percent at the start of the recession in December 2007.

In May, approximately 1.2 million older persons reported that they would like to be working but were not in the labor force, that is, they were neither working nor looking for work, somewhat fewer than had been the case the month before.  Of these, 254,000—or 24 percent fewer than in April—were classified as discouraged workers.  Discouraged workers are not looking for work because they believe that no work is available, that employers would find them too old, that they lack the necessary schooling or training, or that they face other types of discrimination.  At the start of the recession in December 2007, 53,000 older persons were classified as discouraged.