Older job hunters find tough times in Tenn. labor market

Associated Press • May 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

NASHVILLE — Older job hunters are finding it increasingly hard as they seek employment.

Older workers spend more time unemployed between jobs than younger workers, labor data show. For someone who is 45 or older, it takes an average of 22 weeks to land a job, compared with 16 weeks for younger job hunters, according to an analysis of 2008 statistics by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“As long as it is difficult to find work, older workers will continue to be at a disadvantage,” Dan Cornfield, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies and a sociology professor who studies labor issues, told The Tennessean newspaper.

It’s not all bad news for older workers, though. That gap has not increased since the start of the recession. And older workers still have an unemployment rate that’s below the national average.

In March, the jobless rate for those 45 and older was 6.9 percent,comparedwiththeTennessee rate of 9.6 percent and a national rate of 8.5 percent. However, the increase in the unemployment rate last year was sharper for those 55 and older, according to the American Association of Retired People.

Older workers are competing with an increasing number of fellow baby boomers, including more people 65 and older, who are choosing to keep jobs or return to work as their retirement balances dwindle. Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers ages 65 and above increased 101 percent, far more than the 59 percent for the population, according to federal data.

“It was difficult before the bad economy to find a job because of my age, and now it’s even worse,” said Nashville’s Emily Dyche, 68, who refuses to dye her white hair or do anything else to downplay her “Golden Girl” status.

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