Work in progress

For jobless over 50, a challenging search for work
Associated Press
Oct 23, 2013

When Charlie Worboys lost his job, he feared searching for a new one at his age might be tough. Six years later, at 65, he's still looking.

Luanne Lynch, 57, was laid off three times in the past decade and previous layoffs brought jobs with a lower salary; this time she can't even get that.

They're not alone. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds many people over 50 reporting great difficulty finding work and feeling that their age is a factor.

After Worboys was laid off and his hunt for another teaching job was fruitless, he sought counseling positions. When those leads dried up, he applied for jobs in juvenile detention centers, in sales and elsewhere. He finally settled for part-time work, all the while still scouring online listings and sending out applications each week.

"They're looking for the younger person," he said. "They look at the number 65 and they don't bother to look behind it."

The AP-NORC Center poll found 55 percent of those 50 and older who have sought a job in the past five years characterized their search as difficult, and 43 percent thought employers were concerned about their age. Further, most in the poll reported finding few available jobs (69 percent), few that paid well (63 percent) or that offered adequate benefits (53 percent). About a third were told they were overqualified.

Still, some companies are welcoming older workers, and 43 percent of job seekers surveyed found a high demand for their skills and 31 percent said there was a high demand for their experience. Once on the job, older workers were far more likely to report benefits related to their age — 60 percent said colleagues had come to them for advice more often and 42 percent said they felt as if they were receiving more respect in the company.

People of all ages have been frustrated by the job market and the unemployment rate for those 55 and older was 5.3 percent in September, lower than the 7.2 percent rate among all ages. By comparison, unemployment among those 20-24 was 12.9 percent, and among those 25-54, 6.2 percent.

But long-term unemployment has been rampant among the oldest job seekers. Unemployed people aged 45 to 54 were out of work 45 weeks on average, those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks and those 65 and older average 51 weeks.

Younger workers were unemployed for shorter periods of time.

Sixty-three percent of those who searched for a job cited financial need and 19 percent said it was because they were laid off. Far smaller numbers searched because they wanted to change careers, find a better salary or benefits, escape unhappiness at a prior job or simply get out of the house.

Lynch, of San Gabriel, Calif., hated taking a step down after the earlier layoffs, but this time only one interview has come from 70-some applications.

"It's starting at the bottom," she said. "And frankly, I'm getting too old to be starting at the bottom."

Bob Gershberg, a corporate recruiter in St. Petersburg, Fla., said unemployed people, regardless of age, have had trouble getting rehired. But he said older workers have faced an added layer of skepticism from employers.

"They'll say, 'Give me the young guy. Give me the up-and-comer. Someone with fire in the belly," he said. "But there's always been a bias against the unemployed. They say, 'If she was so good, why'd she get cut?'"

Sharon Hulce, who runs a recruitment firm in Appleton, Wis., said she's found some employers are concerned that applicants in their late 50s or 60s may not stick around for the long haul.

And Kerry Hannon, who authored "Great Jobs for Everyone 50-plus," said managers may be leery of a lengthy resume from someone they can't afford, salary-wise.

"They'll look at your background and just figure you'll be insulted," she said.

About 4 in 10 who have been on the job market said they felt they lacked the right skills or felt too old for the available jobs. Many reported trying to improve their skillset (20 percent) or present themselves with a fresher resume or interview approach (15 percent) to make themselves more marketable.

Bret Lane, 53, of San Diego, was out of work for 22 months until finding a job over the summer through Platform to Employment, a training program. He lost count of how many jobs he had applied for — it was easily in the hundreds. Once, after seeing applications would be taken for a janitorial job paying $14 hourly, he got up at 3 a.m. to get an early start. There were already 400 others in line.

"I wasn't getting any interviews. I wasn't getting in front of any decision makers," he said. "People in our age group are very discriminated against."

One in five respondents in the AP-NORC Center poll said they personally experienced prejudice or discrimination in the job market or at work because of their age. That doubles to 40 percent among those who have sought a job in the last five years.

Faye Smith, 69, of Dallas, Ga., said she needed to find work after losing much of her savings in the downturn but felt the hesitance of employers when they saw the dates on her resume.

"You could tell when they found out the age," she said. "There's a change in the face and the demeanor of the person."

The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Aug. 8 through Sept. 10 by NORC at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It involved landline and cellphone interviews in English and Spanish with 1,024 people aged 50 and older nationwide. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.


Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.



AP-NORC Center:


Matt Sedensky, an AP reporter on leave, is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a one-year fellowship at the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which joins NORC's independent research and AP journalism. The fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and supported by APME, an association of AP member newspapers and broadcast stations.


Follow Matt Sedensky on Twitter at




@ sprinkles
You are Assuming that you are the only person that made it. You really need to climb down off of that high horse before you fall off. Material things are just that! Material! Be proud of your success not bitter!



Not on my high horse, just offering insight. You don't have to be rich to be a success. But, you have to drive and a will to move above your present station in life.

I presently counsel nine teenagers in regards to this philosophy. Anyone that is self sufficient is a success in my book. Where you go from there is a personal decision.

We talk about personal responsibility. We talk about career paths. I help them apply for further education and help them locate funding. Sometimes I supply that funding. I only help those who want to help themselves. I don't waste my time trying to change multi generational entitlement mindsets.

Are you interested in helping me make lives better?


I already have made many teens' and adults' lives better. I did more than just preach to them I opened up my home to many foster children from months old to teenagers. I fed them, gave them a safe and secure place to live and sleep and nurtured them. I have also helped many adults re enter society and change their lives by employing them. You know, giving them the ability to help themselves. The difference between you and I is I never judged them or patted myself on the back for helping them and I never will. How can you know if someone has a "multi generational entitlement mindset" if you don't bother to waste your time? Like I said, get off your high horse. To whom much is given, much is required. I have never been "given" anything but have "given" much. I don't need to make others feel inferior so that I can feel superior. If what you say is true, I say Thank You on their behalf but that's all you get. Good will always come back to you.



Played the help everyone game to begin with. Years of frustration trying to help those who don't want to help themselves changed my philosophy on assistance . Don't waste my time with those (multi generational entitlement individuals) who expect some else to solve their problems.

I can effect many more individuals in a positive manner when they have a desire to put for effort. I find it more rewarding to
maximize the number of lives I impact .


That's the problem! You were playing and not really trying to help someone but instead trying to make yourself feel good. Are you really trying to impact other's lives or just your own?



Sorry it is a game to those milking the government entitlement. Their goal is to receive as much as possible free without putting forth any effort. I just won't be a part of it anymore.

Truthfully we are very similar. We both take the time and effort to help others. We are both very passionate about that effort. We just approach the problem from different mindsets. Your not wrong. I'm not wrong.


The problem is you think everyone that receives help is "milking" the system. That is not the case. However, there are those that do "milk" the system. One of my four brothers is living proof of that. Calling him a bum is an insult to real bums. Our mindsets are different when it comes to assuming people do not want to better themselves. Some do, some don't but you can't lump them all together!


I know that their is a valid use of government entitlement as a temporary safety net during difficult times for all of us. These programs initially were developed to be temporary in nature. This is not the case with millions of Americans.

Multi generational entitlement. These above mention programs have become a lifestyle. In 1975 I attended a college class on urban studies. The teacher spent a majority of the time filing us in on how "milk" the system. That was 38 years ago and my first experience in this alternative lifestyle. As a young man I worked in that lifestyle. Grandparents, parents and children all preaching the gospel of letting the government support you.

Through generations this lifestyle has become life for millions of Americans.

I support those who want to better themselves. I won't waste my time with those who have accepted entitlement as a lifestyle.



Dr. Information

erie mom, This is why you cannot rely on the government to take care of you, because when the crap hits the fan, you are done. Its been proven over and over again, they don't care about you and I.

We should all demand that Social Security be done away with and that the government pays us back every single dime we paid in. Its legalized robbery and as of right now, there is an end date that will hit where the money will be gone. Whats going to happen then? Are we going to be told, sorry the pot ran dry, for those that paid in and never got a dime back, think of it as a donation to the betterment of this country? Or will the Dems want to raise taxes so they can pay for something that people paid into? Double dipping? YES

Problem is, the generation that it will effect (mine) are to busy out working and taking care of their families and 99% of people are ignorant to so much going on outside of their daily lives. The government lOVES this btw.


Politics has gutted civil rights over the years. There was a time when it was against the law to discriminate against older Americans. Now a business just needs to prove that there could have been a different reason. Most often the business will show a legitimate savings to payroll. Think about it. We didn't fire him because of his age. We fired him because we could hire an employee who would work for less.


Re: "We fired him because we could hire an employee who would work for less.

And you of course never look for a bargain, but always pay top dollar for your food, clothes, and other consumer products?


More facts. Most Americans hate truth. Dr a. flunked medical college. But he never served - sing Mary sing. Or elect Jenna Jameson, she's GOP all the way.

Dr. Information

More opinions from the discharged.


I got this 1 deertracker..Flat tax, profit sharing (helps morale when all benefit) fair pay for fair days work, make all tax abatements come with stipulations that are upheld, + more.