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Economy is Harder on Older Unemployed Workers


With U.S. unemployment at a 25 year high, older workers say it's becoming increasingly difficult to compete for jobs against younger counterparts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says workers ages 45 and above are staying unemployed longer, about 22 weeks compared to 16 weeks for younger workers. Although many of the so called "baby boomers," [born between 1946 and 1964] are now in the prime of their careers, many have to confront age bias in a dismal job market.

Out of work for more than two years, 55-year-old Richard Zalewa says his resume may be opening doors for job interviews, but he says his grey hair is hurting his chances.

"I was called on the phone for a job interview and when he closed the door to his boss' office, the door was partially opened and his comment was, we have an old gray-haired dude [guy] that we have to interview," explains Zalewa.

Zalewa's story is not unique. Graphics specialist Susana Rosende, who is 41, says some employers don't even try to hide their bias.

Rosende shares one of her experiences, "He said he didn't want complacent middle-agers. He wanted young, and he wanted hungry. And I said, well you know what? I'm very young at heart, and I'm very hungry!"

With the downturn in the US economy, a Labor Department report shows it's taking older workers about 6 weeks longer to land jobs than their younger counterparts.

Despite asking for less money than he used to earn, 55-year-old accountant Alan Maag says employers have told him he is over-qualified.

Magg says, "If you are looking to buy a Chevrolet and someone offered you a Cadillac for the same price, wouldn't you go for the Cadillac?"

AARP, an advocacy group for Americans 50 years and older, says age-based discrimination is rising. Deborah Russell works for the group.

Russell realizes, "They may be looking for a job that may pay less than what they have previously been paid, but that doesn't mean that employers should exclude older workers from employment opportunities."

Richard Zalewa says he has to work harder just to get noticed.

Zalewa explains, "It does give me a little bit of discouragement, but I never feel defeat. I always want to work harder and try a little harder in selling myself."

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate for workers age 45 and older hit 6.4% in March. That's the highest since 1948 when the government started tracking employment trends.

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