Middle Age Unemployment: What Can You Do?

Running away from unemploymentA growing number of people in their 50s and 60s desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement in order to have a secure quality of life. Exclusion from the work force can financially destroy middle-aged persons. And since the economic collapse, there are not enough jobs being created for the population as a whole, much less for those in the twilight of their careers.

Unemployment Devastation

Among the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are age 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the group — 7.8 percent — is at a record, more than double, what it was at the beginning of the latest recession.

Being unemployed at any age can be crushing. However, older workers suspect their résumés are often shoved aside in favor of those from younger workers. Others discover that their job-seeking skills — as well as some technical skills sought by employers — are rusty after years of working for the same company.

Many had in fact anticipated working past conventional retirement ages to gird themselves financially for longer life spans, expensive health care and reduced pension guarantees.

The most recent recession has increased the need to extend working life. Older workers who lose their jobs could pose a policy problem if they lose their ability to be self-sufficient. It means that for the new unemployables, people have been cast adrift at a very vulnerable part of their career and their life.

Financial Impact & Obsolete Skills

Forced early retirement or unemployment imposes an intense financial strain, particularly for those at lower incomes. But even middle-class people who might skate by on savings or a spouse’s income are jarred by an abrupt end to working life and to a secure retirement.

Older people who lose their jobs take longer to find work. In August, the average time unemployed for those 55 and older was slightly more than 39 weeks, according to the Labor Department, the longest of any age group. That is much worse than in August 1983, also after a deep recession, when someone unemployed in that age group spent an average of 27.5 weeks finding work.

Advocates for the over 50 age group worry that younger people are more likely to fill new jobs as well. Older workers’ skills have atrophied for one thing and may have become less relevant to the jobs now available. Many middle age people who lost stable, well-paying jobs during the recession are still struggling to find solid career ground several years later.

Education & Career Retraining

There have never been more opportunities for further learning and career retraining than now. Want a tax break? Go back to school. Two federal income tax credits could help if you return to school to improve your resume in this still-struggling economy. The first is the American Opportunity Credit that covers up to $2,500 of undergraduate expenses. The second is the Lifetime Learning Credit that covers up to $2,000 for graduate school and other training.

Not only can you get tax credits for retraining, you have several options that are available in a variety of means, from on-site to online. Penn Foster is a nationally known leader in online courses, from high school to bachelor’s degrees, including highly popular and growing careers like pharmacy technician, home remodeling and repair or medical assistant/billing & coding.

Byline:
Lourdes Garcia
Lourdes is the first person in her family to graduate from college, and now she is working on her MBA. She hopes to make a splash in the business world, and she loves writing advice about her climb to the top.

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Good luck in your search.

Joey Trebif


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