If you’ve been fired and you’re over 50, you’re screwed.
So says the front page of The New York Times:
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.
Of the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 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 — 7.3 percent — is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the latest recession.
After other recent downturns, older people who lost jobs fretted about how long it would take to return to the work force and worried that they might never recover their former incomes. But today, because it will take years to absorb the giant pool of unemployed at the economy’s recent pace, many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes.
In my new book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”, I include the depressing, terrifying stories of two women, both in their 50s and single, who have plunged from middle-class incomes, hopes and expectations, to frustration and poverty. One, formerly earning $35,000 working for (wait for it) Habitat for Humanity, now makes $7.25 an hour as a retail clerk at a southern department store.
She is furious, and ashamed that she must rely on her 81-year-old mother for financial help every month.
What I don’t get is this — age discrimination is, technically, illegal. Yet, as usual, anyone who’s played that shave-the-resume/dye-their-hair game knows it’s happening every single day in every single state in the nation.
The U.S. is a country predicated on the mythology of the individual who does it all by themselves. Bootstrap city!
Many forces are shoving 50-somethings to the economic margins, in the very years they are hardest-hit by the trifecta of their own need to save for retirement, the increasing needs of their aging/ill/distant parents and their own college-age or young adult children — the ones saddled with educational debt who are returning to the family nest, wanted or not.
It is an unmitigated disaster.
And interest rates are now so absurdly low that retirees can’t live on their savings — and many are now seeking jobs to supplement their paltry incomes from hard-won, carefully-saved investments. More competition for fewer jobs!
If the Tea Partiers can get it together, why not these millions of fired 50-somethings?
Is there no collective political will that might conjoin them into concerted action?
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- Older and jobless: Struggling in the U.S. (theglobeandmail.com)