Older workers snapping up all the jobs

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(MoneyWatch) Getting a job is challenging in today's economy, but the older you are, the less challenging it gets, according to a new analysis of jobs data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm.

Indeed, of the 4.3 million jobs created in the past three years, nearly 3 million have gone to people over the age of 55. To be sure, the unemployment rate remains naggingly high for all workers, including those 55 and over. But the unemployment rate drops sharply for seasoned workers over the age of 44 and remains comparatively low for those a decade older. The unemployment rate among those 44 and older is between 6.4% and 6.5%, according to this analysis of Department of Labor data. Comparatively, the unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds is 12.9% and those between the ages of 24 and 34 suffer a 8.2% unemployment rate.

Because the economy remains tenuous, older workers are in demand because their wealth of experience allows them to take on multiple tasks without the need for additional training, speculates John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"For employers, one experienced candidate is worth two or three younger, greener candidates, in terms of the ability to make immediate and meaningful contributions to output and the bottom line," says Challenger. "In this environment, a seasoned candidate who brings a wide variety of skills and experience to the table is going to have an advantage over younger candidates."

And the notion that older candidates are only finding low-paying jobs in retail and service-oriented industries is also belied by the statistics, he says. As of May 2012, there were 6.3 million 55-plus year-olds working in management, business and financial operations. That's up 12% from May of 2010, he says. The number working in professional and related occupations has increased 10% to 7.5 million from 6.8 million, he added.

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