Older Workers Stay Unemployed Much Longer Than Younger Ones, Study Says

Compared to younger job-seekers, older adults receive fewer job offers, search for work weeks longer and are less likely to find re-employment after losing a job, according to U.S. government data analyzed by Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Psychology and University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. The study was published by the journal Psychological Bulletin.

In a press release, Connie Wangerg, a Carlson School professor of industrial relations, said, “There’s very robust evidence that as an individual moves beyond age 50, they experience a large penalty toward how quickly they will find a job.”

In reviewing results of the U.S. government’s 2014 Displaced Worker Survey, researchers found that someone 50 years or older is likely to be unemployed for 5.8 weeks longer than someone between the ages of 30 and 49, and 10.6 weeks longer than people between the ages of 20 and 29. The study also found that the odds of being re-employed decrease by 2.6 percent for each one-year increase in age.

Researchers linked the struggles older workers have to employer views about them and a mismatch of older workers’ skills with the skills desired in today’s jobs, said Georgia Tech Professor Ruth Kanfer, who co-led the study. “Consider construction workers who must carry heavy objects. If they change occupations or move into a different field, that is likely going to slow their search,” she said.

Other important factors the study found relevant to age and job search were social networks, marketplace needs, search strategies and what individuals wanted out of a job. As people age, their social networks tend to shrink. And their skills set that served them well when they were younger may not match today’s marketplace needs.

The study also found evidence that older workers find jobs that are lower in pay and less personally satisfying compared to their previous jobs. According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Economist Heidi Shierholz, workers between the ages of 54 and 65 earned 13.5 percent less in a new job after losing one.

For many older workers, the prolonged and potentially futile job search may prematurely drive them out of the workforce and even further decrease the chance for re-employment later in life, found the study.

In March, AARP also reported that older workers stay unemployed longer. Many, AARP noted, wind up leaving the workforce altogether. AARP also noted that employers can be reluctant to hire someone who might come with higher health-care costs and have a shorter future with the company.