Even though he had been looking for work on the job-search website Indeed.com and elsewhere since being laid off in April, R.D. Childers didn't know Indeed has a “hiring immediately” filter on its site until his 16-year-old showed it to him.
"People who are my age and older are disconnected from how the game is played. I had to go and take a college course just to figure out how to fill in a résumé."
A 52-year-old senior manufacturing engineer who lives in Austin, Texas, Childers has worked for companies that make everything from computer chips to heart valves. Now, like millions of others, he has to look for a new job due the recession the coronavirus pandemic has triggered. Nearly 1.3 million people filed new claims for unemployment insurance benefits during the week that ended July 11, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. More than 50 million people have filed such claims since the pandemic started in March.
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Trying to keep up with the tools he needs to get a new job in the midst of a pandemic is “incredibly frustrating,” Childers says.
"People who are my age and older are disconnected from how the game is played,” Childers says. “I had to go and take a college course just to figure out how to fill in a résumé."
He's not exaggerating. Some older workers who are suddenly back in the job market may face a process vastly different than the last time they folded cover letters and résumés into envelopes to drop off at the post office.
Today, before they're ever read by humans, résumés have to get past artificial intelligence tracking systems. Interviews are virtual. A good LinkedIn profile is essential. Everything is online.
Older adults “need to upgrade job search skills that might be very rusty,” says Roger Forrester, coordinator of the Back to Work 50+ program at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, which helps them do it.
This recession is different for older workers
On top of everything else, the competition is extreme.
Unlike in previous recessions, when they were generally protected by seniority, Americans over 55 are more likely this time to be out of work than their younger counterparts. Their unemployment rate could be as high as 22 percent, according to an analysis by the Education Policy Institute, compared to the average for all workers of around 15 percent.
That's the biggest gap ever, says Richard Johnson, director of the Program on Retirement Policy at the Urban Institute.
One reason, Johnson says, is that older people may be reluctant to jump straight back into the workforce, considering the risks they may face if they have underlying health conditions. Others are looking for jobs that will let them work remotely, further narrowing their options.
One thing is constant: Once they're out of the workforce, it typically takes longer for older people to get back in, Johnson says. And only 1 in 10 will ever earn as much again, his research has found.
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