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11/30/2015 05:19 pm ET

The Trait That Makes Older Workers Desirable (Not Experience!)

Older workers are finding jobs, and this is the reason why.
A funny thing happened on the way to the unemployment office. People 55 and over actually began to get hired for jobs. After years and years of being the first fired (high salaries) and last hired (again, high salaries), somebody figured out that people 55+ are actually not quite all senile and have this one quality that gives them a leg up over younger workers: They are afraid to ask for a raise.
 
Oh, you thought I was going to say they had oodles of experience? You, Silly Goose! No, nobody wants you for your experience. What they want you for is minimum wage or as darn near close to it as they can get. Throw in being too afraid to ask for a raise, and what you have is possibly the perfect employee for these times.
 
As much as I'd love to take credit for thinking of this, I first read it on the financial blog Zero Hedge, which produces content anonymously under the byline "Tyler Durden" (yes, the character from Fight Club), so make what you will of it. But I think they nailed it with this recent observation about the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report: "In October, the age group that accounted for virtually all total job gains was workers aged 55 and over. They added some 378,000 jobs in the past month, representing virtually the entire increase in payrolls."
 
 
Based on the "and more troubling," phrase, I'm assuming "Durden" isn't an older worker. Just a hunch, but I bet his dad doesn't share his view. 
 
But yes, older workers are getting jobs. Nobody said good jobs, mind you, but jobs. I'm pretty sure this is a "Welcome to Walmart" moment. Still, for many, the spare change they can pick up will help keep the hearth fires glowing.
 
More concerning though was what else "Durden" had to say about why: 
 
 “[There's] little wonder then why there is no wage growth as employers continue hiring mostly those toward the twilight of their careers: the workers who have little leverage to demand wage hikes now and in the future, something employers are well aware of.”
 
Damn if the Anonymous D also didn't nail it. Older workers are workers with little leverage. With the expectation of gratitude for even having a job, what 60-year-old in his/her right mind would raise their hand and ask for a raise? Older workers are afraid that one little squeak that suggests we are anything but deliriously happy and out the door we will go -- our group health insurance, paid sick leave, paid holidays and paid vacations right along with us. No thanks. Better to take what we have and understand that raises go to those with futures with the company, those who will be there for longer.
 
Andrew Faas, founder of The Faas Foundation and author of “The Bully’s Trap," echoed the sentiment. He told The Huffington Post, "if older employees feel they are at risk [of losing their job for ageism], the last thing they would do is ask for a raise." It just makes sense.
 

So what lesson can we glean from all these statistics that the BLS dutifully measures each month? Clearly, Baby Boomers aren't leaving the work force as fast as they were expected to. And while some may delay retirement just because they are healthier than previous generations were -- and they happen to like doing what they are doing -- there is something else at play here. As John Maudlin of Maudlin Economics put it: "Ominously, it seems that millions of Boomers are reaching retirement age without much in the way of retirement assets. They don't retire because they can’t afford to do so."

And when that happens, you practice saying "Welcome to Walmart" and don't even consider asking for a raise.

Also on HuffPost:

 

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