Don't be too surprised if you notice older-looking workers behind the department store counters as you begin your holiday shopping this season: as ABC News is reporting, retailers nationwide say they are hiring an increasing number of experienced job-seekers in their 40s and 50s for part-time and seasonal work in what they describe as "a direct reflection of the economy."
Carl van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers' Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, says older job seekers possess many attributes attractive to employers, including those hoping to fill part-time or temporary posts. Among their many skills: they are highly reliable, and have a better work ethic than those half their age. "They're not going to be complaining that they're not paid enough, or that their skills aren't being used, because it's temporary," he tells ABC.
Horn also dismissed the suggestion that older workers might feel guilty about taking a gig which may be intended for a high school or college student. "One thing I can tell you: Workers in this climate don't agonize over who else's job they're taking, he said. "For one thing, they don't know. And for another, they just don't think about that. Why should they? It's the employer's decision."
Still, not everyone is totally optimistic about the holiday hiring season, and whether or not those low-level jobs will even be available is a question. Last week, West Orlando News cited a National Retail Federation report which says that retailers are expected to take on between 480,000 to 500,000 temporary workers this year, in line with last year's figures and still well below the pre-recession highs.
In the past, many job seekers might accept part-time or seasonal work in hopes of being eventually promoted to a full-time employee. But even those numbers are grim: Maryam Morse, national retail practice leader of Hay Group, tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that while in the past 60 to 70 percent of seasonal hires would have been able to keep their jobs beyond January, it’s 20 percent or fewer. “The possibility is less of turning your seasonal job into something permanent,” she said.
Other boomer age job-seekers say they face subtle discrimination when applying for jobs, including part-time work. "When I walk into an interview, if the person interviewing me is a 20-something-year-old, my heart tends to drop a little bit," Jim Callaham, who is in his late 60s, tells NPR. "Because the chances of a 20-something-year-old hiring their granddad is small." Still, after landing an interview at a big retail chain for a part-time, minimum wage job, 50-year-old Jerri Newton, claims to have applied for over 200 jobs, said she was grateful regardless: "Right now, I'm looking for a right-now job."