05/23/2012 08:36 am ET

Unemployment: An Update From The Front Lines

Long-term unemployment among workers age 55 and over has grown significantly since the recession began in 2007, according to a recent report from The Government Accountability Office. By 2011, 55 percent of unemployed older workers had been actively seeking a job for more than half a year (27 weeks or more).

Anthony LoLavad is an author and teacher who agreed to share his story in April with The Huffington Post using a pseudonym. He calls himself "the world's oldest boomerang child" -- under-unemployed, on the verge of divorce, and living in his parents' home -- with his college-graduate son, who is also looking for a job. Here is an update in his own words:

Well, I’m still quite under-employed, but one of the friends I referred to in the note I sent a month or so ago has landed on his feet. He’s working IT with a company, making money, going to a job every day, and I’ve got to say I haven’t seen him look happier in a while.

On the other hand, an old school mate I’m in touch with about our forthcoming 35th high school reunion (pass me my walker) announced on the reunion web site that he’d have lots more time to work on the festivities, as he’d just been let go from his job. As it turned out, a lot of people “came out” about their employment status –- several announcing they would not be able to make the shindig because it just didn’t fit into their recently trimmed budgets.

That same day, a piece from the AFL-CIO flew in over my attention transom. The piece offers us these words of “encouragement” :

"We (over 50s) have the highest rate of unemployment of any age group. If we find ourselves unemployed, more than half of us will likely to stay that way for at least six months. Our retirement incomes, not so hot to begin with for the most part, are considerably less hot. If nothing is done, things are gonna get worse."

That last lovely insight comes from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging (and we all really hate to think of ourselves as aging). The good senator said, “Left unchecked, long-term unemployment among older workers is a problem that will continue to grow as our workforce grays.”

Add to this the growing trend of posting “The Unemployed Need Not Apply” signs, and we’re up sh*t’s creek without a canoe.

There are several legislative ideas bouncing around the bicameral halls, but they don’t seem to get traction. One is the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, but most of the stuff the bill hopes to protect us from is already (theoretically) illegal. Same goes for the Fair Employment Opportunity Act.

When I was an undergrad, I worked with a progressive (read: radical) sociology professor who discovered that an area “reported” to have a 9 percent rate of unemployment had closer to a 24 percent rate. This is because folks like us 99ers (not to be confused with the 99-percenters) aren’t officially unemployed, nor are us folks who have taken a job of something/anything proportions just to have a little income coming in, but not enough for a responsible adult to live on.

When my buddy found work, I felt another spark of hope. But there’s only so much anti-fertilizer a little spark can stand.

One thing I’m going to say is we need to help each other. I recall piece I learned in religious school: There are eight degrees of charity, one higher than the one before:

  • to give grudgingly reluctantly, or with regret;
  • to give less than one should but with grace;
  • to give what one should but only after being asked;
  • to give before one is asked;
  • to give without knowing who will receive it, although the recipient knows the identity of the giver;
  • to give without making known one’s identity;
  • to give so that neither giver now receiver knows the identity of the other;
  • and this is the key one:

  • to help another to become self-supporting by means of a gift, a loan, or finding employment for the one in need.
  • We could use a lot of the latter kind right about now.