Business, Economics and Jobs

Younger and older workers struggling

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Career Fair at Eastern Washington University (Image: Flickr user Eastern Washington University (cc: by-nc-sa))

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According to "BusinessWeek," only 46 percent of people aged 16 to 24 had jobs last month -- that is the lowest number since the government began tracking the data in 1948.

Beth Kobliner, author of "Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties," says there is a joblessness "food chain" where younger workers are losing entry-level jobs to college graduates or retirees who are forced to re-enter the workforce.

"For the first time there are four generations in the workplace, vying for that same limited pool of jobs," said Kobliner. We have generation Y, we have generation X, we have the boomers and then now the matures -- age 63 and over -- this group which probably would have been retired decades ago, but they are staying in the workplace because they have to.

"And I think that's the battle that's been going on. And the younger people, that's the 16 - 24-year-old group, they're being hit incredibly hard, harder than ever before."

Twenty-five-year-old Harvey Cummings was laid off from his job as a middle school band teacher in June. "The only thing I have to my advantage is I'm still finishing grad school," he says.

Kobliner says many young people, like Cummings, are going back to school and engaging in other activities to buy time. "We're seeing a huge increase in Peace Corps, a huge increase in Teach for America."

The unemployment rate for the younger age group is noticeably higher than the national rate, according to Kobliner.

"For African American young males, age 20 - 24, the unemployment rate right now is 27 percent; for young people 20 - 24 in general it's 15 percent; compared to the national unemployment rate it's 9.5 percent."

Older workers, says Kobliner are facing their own challenges. "Older people in this recession have been the ones who have been laid off predominantly because they're the ones who have been earning the higher wage. And so we're also seeing the rise in age discrimination lawsuits."

Sixty-five-year-old Jackie Goldenberg, who was laid off from the financial services industry two years ago, cites her age as the primary reason she lost her job.

"Pretty much anyone over 50, you would feel that you were the most vulnerable," say Goldenberg of her previous employer. "Pretty much everybody around me was significantly younger."

Atlanta recruiter Rachel Revinovich says employers definitely weigh different pros and cons when it comes to these age groups.

"The struggle that the younger generation are finding is that they have no experience and the employers are not wanting to invest in training ... and for the older generation, the employer [view] usually is that they maybe only have another five years left and that they won't give it their all."

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