The Bifurcated and Opaque Issues of the 55+ Job Market
I have spent the last 6 months talking to career professionals of all types to understand what they are seeing. This has included resume writers, career coaches, and job club leaders from across the United States. This post is about what they have been telling me. I am going to break the trends down into four broad categories:
- Long term employment for those 55+ is very high
- Many retired, some by their own choice while others not
- Necessity entrepreneurism
- Those being hired are following tried and true strategies
The bifurcation between those who have stayed employed and those who are unemployed is quite stark. Those who have stayed employed have choices that include retirement.
If you read my friend Chris Farrell‘s recent article for Next Avenue titled, Older Workers and ‘The Big Quit’, you will learn that those who have stayed employed may be quitting their jobs. They are not retiring but taking the time to rethink and reimagine what they were doing with their lives and at work.
Long Term Unemployment in the 55+ Job Market
The percentage of the unemployed who are 55+ is painfully high at 55.3% in May of 2021. In discussions with multiple job club leaders, their members who were unemployed before the pandemic are really suffering. They told me that the attendance at their virtual/Zoom meeting was down significantly in 2021. They really could not tell me why but one possibility is that those who were unemployed before the pandemic have either given up or suspended their job search.
We know from the Urban Institute report, “How Secure Is Employment at Older Ages?”, that if you lose your job in your 50’s the probability of recovering to the same earning level is very small.
The statistics that you need to pay attention to are:
- National Unemployment Rate – 5.9%
- Unemployment Rate Age 50-54 – 4.3%
- Unemployment Rate Age 55+ – 4.9%
- Total Number of Unemployed over age 50 – 2.5 million
- Labor Participation Rate – 61.6%
It is the last number that I want you to really pay attention to, the labor participation rate. That is the lowest it has even been.
In addition, you will notice that the unemployment rate for those of 50 years of age is lower than the national unemployment rate. This does not consider the people who have retired because they could not find a job.
Many Retired, Some by their Own Choice While Others Not
A recent report from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis told us that an additional 1.7 million retired due to the pandemic. Over the last few years, about 2 million 55+ aged individuals retired each year. This is an 85% increase which in itself is pretty stunning but to be expected given the magnitude of the pandemic.
I was speaking with a resume writer a few months ago who was very busy working with non-profit executives. I asked what was causing the surge. She explained there was a large number of retirements of non-profit executives.
I lived in Austin for 40 years before my wife and I moved to Mexico. I was very civically involved and there was great concern for years that the senior leadership in the non-profit sector was very old with poor succession plans. The pandemic has pushed many who were in a position to retire, to pull the trigger and retire.
According to the Schwartz Center report, those without a college degree retired at much higher rates. It has been reported that many retired early as the pandemic was a grind that would adversely affect their health and well-being.
We will only know in a few years how this burst of retirement will affect the economy.
I have written about necessity entrepreneurs in the past. These are people who go to work for themselves as they have few other options.
According to the National Report on Early-Stage Entrepreneurship in the United States: 2020 report produced by the Kauffman Foundation, entrepreneurship soared in 2020. However, the report stated:
The opportunity share of new entrepreneurs was 69.8 percent in 2020, representing a substantial drop from 2019 (86.9 percent). This opportunity share of new entrepreneurs is the lowest over the past 25 years and perhaps longer. The decline from 2019 to 2020 during the pandemic was 17.1 percentage points, much larger than the one-year decline of 6.9 percentage points from 2008 to 2009 during the Great Recession.
You are probably asking what is opportunity share of new entrepreneurs? It measures the percentage of new entrepreneurs who were not unemployed before starting their businesses. This means a LOT of the new entrepreneurs were unemployed when they started their businesses.
It is pretty obvious that a lot of 55+ aged individuals started a business out of necessity and not by choice.
Those Being Hired are Following Tried and True Strategies
I have had dozens of discussions with career professionals over the past months about what trends they are seeing.
They all told me that hiring has been drawn out though it is quickening. Many of the older clientele are struggling but the ones that have been hired have focused on two tried and true strategies – networking and LinkedIn.
Yes, I know networking in the last 18 months has been hard. I also know many of you are hesitant to get back out there and network in person. I would encourage you to read a recent post I wrote, Are you Nervous about Networking After COVID-19? Here are some Tips.
I also want you to listen to my podcast episode where I interviewed Ryan Rhoten and Andy Foote about their new book LinkedIn Made Simple – Fat Strategies in a Thin Book. What I loved about the book is how it focused on strategies. If you want to get hired you need a strategy.
Everyone I have spoken with has told me hiring is being done via LinkedIn and networking is key. Notice I said, everyone!
Bifurcated and Opaque Issues
Those of you who have been employed the entire time is in a very different position than those of you who are unemployed. This is a huge bifurcation.
The issues that face us are very opaque and not a lot of hard data to tell us why things are happening.
If you are unemployed you need to develop a strategy to get out there and network. Plus, you will need a strategy on how to leverage your presence on LinkedIn.
If you have thoughts on anything I have written please leave a comment below.