WASHINGTON -- Older workers laid off during the Great Recession and in its aftermath have had less luck than younger ones in finding new jobs, according to new Labor Department data.
Of the 2.5 million workers aged between 55 and 64 who lost their jobs from 2009 through 2011, slightly less than half were working again in January 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest biennial survey of "displaced workers" -- people laid off because their plant or company closed, had too little work for them to do, or abolished their position or shift.
Nearly 13 million Americans were displaced from their jobs during the three-year period that started in 2009. Older workers accounted for 19.6 percent of the displaced but just 15.1 percent of the re-employed, according the AARP Public Policy Institute's Sara Rix. Less than a quarter of those aged 65 and up who lost their jobs found jobs by January, while 60.7 percent of layoff victims aged 25 to 54 had found new jobs in that time.
Rix called the figures troubling. "Older displaced workers are far less likely than their younger counterparts to find work after job loss and much more likely to drop out of the labor force," Rix said in an email. "Coupled with rising health care costs, a volatile stock market, and the sharp decline in housing values in recent years, these developments point to a precarious financial situation for older Americans."
The category of those not in the labor force includes retirees, students, people taking care of children or relatives, and people simply not looking for work. Laid-off workers older than 55 were more than twice as likely to leave the labor force than their younger counterparts. Just shy of a quarter of those aged 55 to 64 who lost their jobs ended up dropping out of the labor force by January, while 12.3 percent of laid-off workers aged 25 to 64 did so.
Several hundred thousand people left the workforce in August, helping push down the unemployment rate from 8.3 to 8.1 percent. While a significant percentage of people leaving the workforce could be Baby Boomers retiring, discouragement over a lack of jobs drives out more.
Displaced older workers were less likely to have ditched the workforce this year than in 2002, Rix said, which could another sign of people prolonging their careers thanks partly to diminished retirement security.
Chris Kapeghian, of Vestal, N.Y. is 60 and has been out of work for 11 months. Despite a pension he splits with his ex-wife, Kapeghian said he is slowly draining his savings as he looks for work. He said he has sent out more than 200 resumes and received only a handful of "no thank you" responses -- the downside of having to apply for most jobs online.
"I send them out in blizzards and unfortunately you get no response. You don’t get feedback," Kapeghian said. "It starts to grind on you after a while."
Kapeghian retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004, then started doing technical training for defense contractors until they ran out of work last year. He said retail stores and sandwich shops have turned him down for being overqualified.
"Regardless of how positive your outlook is, you have to accept after months and months that there is a reality that isn’t as positive," he said.(For more on older workers, check out the segment below from Huff Post Live.)