In twilight of their careers, unemployed workers face tough new realities

More mature workers who have lost their jobs have a lot on their minds - how to prepare for retirement, how to pay for health care coverage, and not only how they will get that next job, but if they will ever get that next job. 

The reality of the country's economic woes is that there are more people than there are jobs and not enough new jobs are being created to meet the need. The unemployment rate for workers 55 or older is at a record high 7.3 percent, The New York Times reported, double what it was at the start of the recession. Nearly half of the group has been without a job for six months or longer, according to the Labor Department.

In a thought-provoking piece in the The New York Times, Motoko Rich interviewed laid off Boeing internal auditor and analyst Patricia Reid, who used to earn $80,000 annually and had spent 20 years with the company. For the past four years she has been chasing an ever-elusive goal - employment.  

"I have had nightmares about becoming a bag lady," Reid, 57, told The New York Times, which reported she was selling some personal items and is tardy paying some credit card bills. "It could happen to anyone. So many people are so close to it, and they don't even realize it."

Reid is part of an expanding segment of workers in their 50s and 60s who are working hard to find employment but keep coming up empty as years tick by. Unless the tide turns, many of them will remain out of the work force.

Carter Dougherty, who writes the column Capital View for bnet.com, the CBS interactive business network, said that what older workers who have lost their jobs are going through should set off alarm bells. He suggests looking into the future about a decade when these early retirees are cash strapped and relying on Social Security as their sole source of income.

"Their dreams of private accounts, or lower benefits, are unrealizable. The tax burden on the working population may even increase. And there's the social cost: acute poverty among the elderly. Don't think it can't happen here," Dougherty warned.

New figures released by the Labor Department show that the jobless rate for the country has remained at 9.5 percent for the past two months. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that this is the longest period since the recession of the early 1980s where the jobless rate has been more than 9 percent.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has partnered with EmploymentGuide.conm and WiserWorker.com to sponsor career fairs around the country aimed at older workers. These fairs are designed to attract local and national employers and offer tools, resources, career advisors, and workshops for 50+ job seekers.
 

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