Older workers are getting hired—but for a lot less pay. How to boost your earning potentialJanuary 14, 2021
As we begin 2021, the Indeed Hiring Lab reports that the U.S. labor market has recovered more than half the jobs lost during the pandemic. That’s great. Still, if you’re a job seeker 55+, finding work (especially jobs and gigs that pay well) remains a challenge.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, workers 55 and older face higher levels of unemployment than midcareer workers, according to October 2020’s “The Status of Older Workers Report” from the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. Older workers who are Black, female or lack a college degree are experiencing even higher rates of job loss.
And when experienced workers do find work these days, they often end up earning less than their previous jobs — at precisely the point they hoped to be at peak earning potential.
A new job at 1/3 his former salary
Mike Kohler, 68, struggled to find a job six years ago after a long career in public affairs and government relations. “My résumé was stellar and I thought that would be enough,” he says. “Yet I was perceived as overqualified.” Eventually, following a move from Kansas City to Colorado and a chance conversation, Kohler landed a job as leadership and workforce development training coordinator with the Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development Department — at 1/3 his former salary.
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Kohler says that, for him, the trade-off of less pay and less responsibility works. “I used to have big budgets and big staff,” he notes, “but I just don’t want or need that now. My job and lifestyle fit perfectly for where my life is today.”
Yet Kohler knows from his work with the Age Place Friendly Workplace Initiative, a Colorado-based group promoting age-friendly and intergenerational workplaces, that many others his age are not so fortunate.
“There are so many people who need to keep working,” he says. “Unfortunately, some of the best people are being overlooked because of false assumptions employers make about experienced candidates.”
What older job seekers saw in the 2007-09 recession
Those assumptions range from believing the older candidates lack the skills and motivation to do the job to expecting the applicants would demand pay equal to or higher than their previous positions.
The phenomenon of unemployed people in their 50s and 60s getting hired for less than what they made in their last job isn’t new. During the 2007-2009 recession and the years following, unemployed workers in their 50s who became reemployed earned 21% less in their new jobs than in their pre-layoff jobs, on average, according to the Urban Institute.
The hard truth is that during periods of high unemployment, like today, a new job might not pay what you earned before. So, it’s best to be realistic about your options and not let your ego stand in the way of accepting a position. Be open, too, to nonprofit and government jobs, even if they pay less than…