Full Employment is Here … Well, It Sure Does Not Feel Like It.
All of the data that is being published says we are at full employment. With unemployment rates below 4%, we should all be feeling pretty good.
Why then does it not feel that way? I speak at job clubs every few months and try to attend them on a semi-regular basis. The faces I see are well… old. Some of that is because these people are part of the long-term unemployed. Being unemployed over 26 weeks is a real drag on your health.
According to the AARP Public Policy’s Employment Data Digest, the numbers are pretty good. The unemployment rate for those over 55 years of age is only 3.2%. This is based on those who are either working or looking for work. The employment rate (sometimes called the employment-to-population ratio) refers to the proportion of the civilian non-institutional population that is employed is only 38.7% which is one percent higher than it was in December of 2007. This includes a lot of people who have retired.
This is not so bad, right? We are at full employment, right?
Why does it not feel right?
Where not to be Old and Unemployed
I live in Austin Texas, where the unemployment rate is under 3%. Wow, that is great.., right? Well not if you are over 50 years of age. The unemployment rate if you are over 50 exceeds 12%.
Back in 2015, The Atlantic published the article Where Not to Be Old and Jobless which listed Austin as the #4 worst place to be old and unemployed.
AARP has funded a program at Austin Community College called Back to Work 50+. This program targets the most vulnerable members of the community, primarily women, who if they do not find work will likely become impoverished.
I was at my breakfast club a few months back where we had a prominent speaker say, in Austin, if you want a job you can have a job.
If we are at full employment, why do we need such a program like Back to Work 50+?
Retired Because You Want to or Have to?
I know a fair number of people who have retired before the age of 65 but they are mostly retiring from government jobs.
I also know some people who have retired because of health reasons, either their own or their spouses.
Then there are those of you who have given up looking for a job, took your social security early and checked out. We know that 40% of people who initiate social security do so at the age of 62. Only 7% wait to take social security until the maximum age of 70. Since you are no longer actively looking for work, you are labeled as retired. If you have retired you will not count in the calculations for the unemployment rate.
I do not know this as a fact but it is my feeling that many of you fall into the last 2 categories, retired for health reasons or because you can no longer find work.
Remember, we are at full employment … right? Everyone who wants a job has a job… right?
Is It a Skills Issue?
There is no question that we have a skills mismatch in the market. We are seeing creative destruction accelerate through so many industries. This is eliminating positions where skills were acquired and honed over many years. I wrote about a couple of clients in the post Living in a “Career Disaster Area” at the Age of 65 where their worlds disappeared in less than 5 years. You will also find this post on Forbes.com.
You might be saying to yourself, I will refresh my skill set and make myself viable again. There are so many ways to acquire new knowledge and skills. There are many inexpensive and free online educational websites where you acquire the knowledge and skills in the latest technologies and industries.
Once you acquire those new skills, will any consider you for employment? I have lots of examples from the Career Pivot Online Community (which is currently in beta), where members have acquired skills in the latest programming technologies and data science and still cannot get hiring managers to speak with them.
Hiring managers do not want to invest in the careers for people in the 2nd half of life. The way I have heard this expressed in the past is, “they do not have enough career runway”.
When we are at full employment should we be worried about having enough ‘career runway?’
Adapt or Be Left Behind
Marti Konstant, author of Activate Your Agile Career: How Responding to Change Will Inspire Your Life’s Work, who was on episode 82 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast said it best, adapt or be left behind.
You have a choice, you can plan for the future that will be significantly different than today or be left behind. It is a choice!
There are several members in the Career Pivot online community who are working to get ahead of the change. They are taking bold action to put them in a position to be ready for the change.
A classic story of change is Mike Martin who is now a drone pilot instructor. You can hear Mike’s story, which is an extraordinary one on the “Repurpose Your Career” podcast episode #24. When Mike started down his journey to becoming a drone pilot instructor that career path did not exist.
Many of us will want or need to work into our 70s. Working in our 70s will not look like working in our 50s. It will most likely be a combination of different types of jobs.
Does It Feel Like Full Employment to You?
I wrote this post because this employment scene does not feel right.
I would like to get your perspective. If you would be so kind to comment below I would really appreciate it.
Am I smoking something or are the numbers not telling the complete story?Marc Miller
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