Older Ind. residents say it's tough to find a job
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- In his mid-50s, Wayne B. Young seemed set for life. He had a good job as a commodities specialist at Batesville-based Hillenbrand Industries and was headed toward a comfortable retirement.
Then, in 2003, he was laid off in a companywide reduction. It took him six months to find another job, but he was laid off again four months later. After many more months, the Martinsville man finally landed a job as a consultant with a Chicago-area company, for which he has worked intermittently since.
"My problem is, I was making a pretty good salary (at Hillenbrand)," said Young, now 61. "You have to realize that your expectations for that same kind of salary aren't going to be there."
Laid-off workers of any age are finding it difficult to match old salaries in this down economy, but landing a full-time job of any kind is proving particularly daunting for applicants who are 45 and older.
Joblessness for that age group has risen faster than for younger workers. And it's taking longer for older workers to find work than it is for younger peers.
Although older workers face lower unemployment rates, joblessness for them more than doubled from 2008 to 2009.
For those ages 55 to 64, the rate rose to 5.8 percent from 2.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And once they are laid off, older workers need an average of 35.5 weeks to find a new job -- at least five weeks longer than younger counterparts.
Joblessness among younger workers may be increasing at a slower rate because they more frequently choose to take themselves out of the work force and return to college.
"Younger workers may opt to go back to school or seek alternative things to do. Older workers may be in a situation where they have to search for employment, even though that may not be forthcoming," said Randy Ilg, an economist with the BLS.
Older workers also may feel pressured to continue working because retirement benefits are not as generous as they were at the start of their careers, Ilg said.
But some workers attribute their plight to employers' misperceptions that they aren't computer-savvy or aren't willing to learn new skills.
"It's all about stigmas associated with older workers, that they're out of date, and there is a feeling that older workers are not as quick to pick up the new technology," said Mark McNulty, president of Indianapolis-based HR Dimensions. "There's a feeling that some companies may be (reluctant) to hire an older worker for what they think may be only four or five years," McNulty said.
For older workers to have a shot at finding 21st century work, McNulty said, they need to embrace the technology, from e-mail to social networks such as LinkedIn, which can let the world know of their talents and availability.
"That's the minimum admission procedure," he said. "If you're not connected with that, you're not taking advantage of everything possible for a jobs search."
Randy Weddle, 55, has been looking for a job for two years. A former commercial roofer, he left the job market seven years ago to take full-time care of his cancer-stricken mother. His search for employment began after she died.
He had a brief stint as a Speedway gas station clerk, but he was laid off after just a short time.
"It's frustrating," Weddle said. "I really doubt they'll take someone my age. They've got young people out of work looking for jobs, and these young ones have degrees."
Tonya Miller, 53, Indianapolis, lost her factory job at BorgWarner in Muncie after 24 years. She's not ready to retire and has taken computer courses to improve her skills and learn how to fill out online job applications.
She's determined to show employers that she has a lot to offer.
"Older people are more responsible and dependable," she said. "I just think it's slow right now. You have to have a positive attitude, and I believe I'll get a job. I don't think age is a barrier."
Young, the former Hillenbrand worker, has nearly given up his search for a full-time job. As a consultant, he travels from city to city, whenever and wherever his talents are needed. But it's not the steady, daily work that had supported his family -- a wife and four children -- for decades.
"I never thought I'd be looking for a job when I was 60," he said.