Unemployment and the over 50 worker


Younger workers can be more desirable for full-time positions than those over 50.

Younger workers can be more desirable for full-time positions than those over 50.

Recent unemployment statistics look like things are getting better. Yet they don’t adequately count those seeking jobs who have fallen off the rolls or just given up. Nor do they reflect the underemployed who deserve better.

For me, this unemployment lesson began innocently one night in a busy Ohio coffee shop. The brightly lit coffeehouse seemed particularly inviting with the smell of freshly brewed beans filling the air.

The 20-something employee was a professional young lady destined for greater things. While she was preparing my skinny caramel latte, I absentmindedly asked, “Are you in school?”

Unfortunately, I had hit an obvious nerve. The brunette barista began pouring out her tragic tale of finishing college, landing her dream job then just as quickly being downsized. In the midst of this tirade, she mentioned something about owing a fortune in school loans.

With mounting agitation, the café server finally revealed the real culprit responsible. It turned out to be me because she blamed all the folks over 50 who refuse to retire as the reason young people can’t find a decent job. Instantly, my delicious java tasted as bitter as her unlined face looked.

Since I’m a journalist, I thought that explaining my side of the story might enable her to better understand life through bifocals.

For example, bitter barista probably doesn’t realize that our erratic retirement accounts aren’t what they once were. A volatile stock market, lack of savings, reduced home equity and longer life spans force folks into staying on the job. This probably won’t improve for future generations, since according to the U.S. Social Security Administration’s website, ssa.gov, 50 percent of the current 158 million American workers have no private pension plan, and 31 percent have no savings earmarked for retirement.

Besides economic need, there’s the ingrained work ethic that many boomers share. Admittedly, countless wage earners look forward to retirement to enjoy spending time with grandchildren and playing golf. But for others, our life purpose centers on the societal contribution that we make through our profession.

How about a word picture representing the heart cry of the over-50 displaced worker? Remember being a child sprawled out on your living room floor with a coloring book and crayons. While you were carefully coloring, staying in the lines, meticulously choosing each color, suddenly you heard your mother’s voice informing you that it was bedtime. If you were like me, you frantically wailed, “But I’m not done yet.”

But some baby boomers are done, even though they don’t want to be. According to recent AARP statistics, individuals over 55 have unemployment levels that have more than doubled since 2007.

In addition, a Reuters’ Money article by Mark Miller headlined “Older unemployed workers half as likely to get hired” outlines the challenge for aging Americans. Miller cites research from the Urban Institute displaying that seasoned employees are less likely to lose their jobs due to seniority. But if they do with the exception of successful C-level executives, it’s probably going to be an uphill battle for them to find new full-time employment.

This subtle, unspoken discrimination against mature workers was birthed in the dark days of recession. Employers can’t afford to hand over a coveted vacancy to an aging candidate who they fear might not be tech savvy or could increase their health insurance premiums and claims.

In fairness to skinny latte lady, her own path was never supposed to include being a barista with a college degree or moving back in with her parents to save money. Even though it might seem like a young-eat-old-worker world out there, coffee girl is desperately looking for a real job to call her own.

Older unemployed individuals aren’t giving up either. Experience can still open a door for part-time or consulting opportunities. You may be making less per hour than you could get for babysitting the neighbor’s kids. Nevertheless, you take it, proud to be part of the workforce again.

Others are opening small businesses to put themselves back to work. Information reported by Dane Stangler for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation shows boomers aged 55 to 64 account for the “highest rate of entrepreneurial activity” this past decade.

Bottom line, if you can’t find a job, you can create one. As a past small business owner, I know that being an entrepreneur is risky, especially in this economy. But if you are like me, I’ll bet you always told your mother, “Please, give me a little more time. I’m not done yet.”




Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website atchristinaryanclaypool.com.




Veteran’s Day: Did You Lose that Arm for Me?

Amputee soldierVeteran’s Day is upon us, since we celebrate this holiday on November 11th each year. Once again, I find myself at a loss to express my gratitude to those who served or are serving in the military. This gratitude is not new for me, because I grew up in a home with a veteran.  

My father is now in his eighties, but an old black and white photo of him as a young Army staff sergeant sits on an end table in his home reminiscent of his own service. It was his example that taught me this deep respect for the men and women of the military.

Twenty-year-old country singer, Scotty McCreery must have patriotic roots that run deep like mine. But honestly have you ever heard of a country artist who isn’t patriotic? Recently, I attended my first ever country concert featuring McCreery who was the Season 10 American Idol winner.  Besides old Idol fans like me and my hubby, McCreery had a following of screaming girls in cowboy boots and rhinestone belts singing along to his hit songs at Troy’s Hobart Arena last month. Personally, the price of the ticket was worth just hearing the performer’s touching tune, “The Dash.”

 Scotty McCreery

An already consummate musician, McCreery sat down on a stool and mesmerized the crowd with his lyrics about the true story of a young soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan and never returned to see his wife give birth to his first child, a little boy.

Thankfully, my own nephew, an Army private recently returned safely from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. While he was there I was constantly praying for huge angels to be around him. Sadly, I’m sure that the family of the young soldier McCreery wrote about was praying for the same thing.

While interviewing Lima’s Scott Young, WTGN’s general manager, I found out that as a teenager growing up in Windham, Ohio, he, too, prayed daily for his older brother who was serving in Vietnam. Although his brother returned unharmed, “The little town I was from, we lost five boys in Vietnam,” remembered the well-known radio personality. Young, who has been at WTGN Christian Radio for 35 years, will be featured in my Inspirations column in December’s Our Generation’s magazine.   

Like Scott Young’s brother who works in the same Windham area factory where their late father once did, there are countless veterans all around us. Those who served in combat action, and others who sacrificed to protect our freedom during calmer times. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau almost 22 million Americans have been in the military. Of this number, 1.6 million are female veterans.

Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell who is a veteran. It can be the clerk at the gas station, the emergency room nurse, or a farmer in the field who once served our country. There are signs though, like a license plate holder, bumper sticker, or ball cap that boasts allegiance to a specific military branch. My father is one of those U.S. Army ball-cap guys.

Mum Festival 2013 002That’s why I wondered if the young man who I saw this fall at a community festival was a war veteran. He was wearing a military cap, except it was a camouflage hat without any lettering, so I wasn’t sure if he was military or just someone who liked camouflage.

The approximately twenty-something family man was tall and stood almost at attention in his khaki t-shirt. There was one unusual thing; he was minus an arm. He caught me staring at his missing appendage, and for just a moment he appeared embarrassed. I could tell he wasn’t the kind of individual who cared for sympathy, but it wasn’t sympathy I was feeling. Rather, I was obsessively wondering how he had lost that limb. Of course, he could have been in a factory or farming accident, but still I felt this visceral guilt in realizing that he might have lost it defending my freedom.

Since politeness, prevented me from asking, I didn’t get a chance to thank him, if he had been in combat. But how would you thank someone for giving up their arm in your defense anyway? That’s why I wrote this column to possibly express my gratitude to him and every courageous man and woman who have served or are serving to make sure our nation remains the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Thank you and Happy Veteran’s Day!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in The Lima News, Sidney Daily News, and Troy Daily News.