05/16/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

AARP Launches Massive Job Fair Project For Older Unemployed

To help the more than two million unemployed Americans who are older than 55, the AARP is sponsoring 48 job fairs in 19 states with high unemployment rates for older workers. The events, the first of which is on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, will offer career counseling and booths from businesses with job openings.

Two weeks ago, the AARP's Public Policy Institute reported that unemployment for Americans 55 and older surged 331 percent over the past decade.

In February, the unemployment rate for workers older than 55 climbed to 7.1 percent from 6.8 in January. That's higher than it's ever been since the 1940s, but lower than the overall national rate, which stands at 9.7 percent. The truly bad news is that the average duration of unemployment for older workers reached 35.6 weeks -- substantially longer than the 28.3 weeks for the average laid-off worker under 55.

"Many retirees have been forced back into the job market, due to decimated retirement nest eggs and skyrocketing health care costs," said Deborah Russell, AARP's Director of Workforce Issues, in a statement.

Age-discrimination complaints to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission have been higher since the start of the recession than for any previous two-year period. Older unemployed workers talk about the "Gray Wall" obstructing job search efforts.

Here's more info on the job fairs from the AARP's release:

AARP is hosting the career fairs in collaboration with The Employment Guide, a leading national marketing services company that sponsors job fairs nationwide. Job seekers may register for specific fairs at or call toll-free 1-888-321-5349. Participating employers, which must have job openings available at the time of the event, will include members of AARP's National Employer Team, clients of the Employment Guide and other companies targeting boomers and older job seekers for job openings.