Saturday, January 02, 2016

Over 50, Female and Jobless Even as Others Return to Work


The latest signs of an improving economy were good enough to help persuade the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. But the better job market is not good enough to land Chettie McAfee a job.

Laid off at the start of the recession from the diagnostic testing firm in Seattle where she spent more than three decades, Ms. McAfee, 58, has not worked since 2007. “I’ve been applying and applying and applying,” said Ms. McAfee, who has relied on her savings and family to get by as she fights off attempts to foreclose on her home. At interviews, she said, “They ask, ‘Why has it been so long?’”

At 5 percent, the jobless rate may be close to what economists consider full employment, but that headline figure doesn’t capture the challenges still facing millions of Americans who have yet to regain their footing in the workplace.

Ms. McAfee is part of a group that has found the postrecession landscape particularly difficult to navigate: women over 50.


But many of these older women now earn far less and use many fewer skills than they did before. Others have been left stranded without any job for months or even years. Some have given up the search altogether.


Certainly older workers — male and female — must contend with age discrimination.

“I have been told in interviews that they want somebody younger,” said Karen Lamkin, a lawyer with 25 years of experience who lives outside Boston and has been out of work for three years. “It does not matter that I would be satisfied with the salary for a junior position.”


But while older workers generally have lower unemployment rates than younger ones, those who find themselves jobless, for whatever reason, tend to find themselves stuck there for longer. And women 55 and older who lose a job have more trouble than men getting another one, according to Sara E. Rix, an analyst and former senior researcher for AARP, the lobbying organization for older Americans.

“Older displaced women are less likely than displaced men of the same ages to be re-employed and more likely to have left the labor force,” she noted in a recent analysis.


Meryl Manthey, 63, pointed out that she was not counted among the jobless either. “I’m making zero income, but I’m considered self-employed,” said Ms. Manthey, who got her real estate license when she moved back to her mother’s homestead in Wantagh, N.Y., from California three years ago after a divorce. The cross-country resettlement followed years of frustrated job searching after she was laid off from her job doing web-based training.


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