Finding a New Job After 40

Losing your job can be hard at any age, but it is especially brutal for older workers.

According to employment figures released by the United States Government Accountability Office, the length of time spent being unemployed has tripled for workers over the age of fifty-five, even though younger workers are able to find new jobs more quickly.    Whether due to outdated job skills or age-related bias, older job seekers often find themselves being forced to drop out of the work force completely or taking jobs paying far less than what they once earned.  Even when the overall unemployment rate is taken into account, older job seekers typically spend more time being unemployed than younger workers.  This is despite the fact that older workers are the single largest segment of the labour force in most industrialized countries. 

Are older job seekers really the "new unemployables" as one recent research study has suggested?   While there have been numerous studies looking at the link between aging and unemployment, research focusing on the various reasons older workers have difficulty finding new jobs have tended to focus on the psychological effects of unemployment.   Other potential explanations for the longer time older job seekers spend unemployed, including whether differences in job search activities between older and younger workers may be playing a role have been largely overlooked.

To deal with these concerns and provide a comprehensive look at the reemployment prospects of older workers, a new review article published in Psychological Bulletin examines ninety-four research studies conducted over the past two decades.  A research team led by Connie Wanberg of the University of Minnesota and Ruth Kanfer of the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted this meta-analysis to look at  the relationship between age and the time needed to find a new job as well as whether age is really a barrier in filling new jobs that become available.   The researchers also looks at whether there were differences between older and young workers in terms of the different methods used to find a new job (including using online resources that young workers might find easier to access).   As well, the researchers examined employment trends involving older workers across different decades to see if the problem with older workers and unemployment has become worse with time.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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