The Invisible Unemployed
There’s a new generation of invisible unemployed, and it’s not young millennials. No, the aging boomers are the ones who are really struggling to find work. I’ve seen and heard it firsthand from family members and friends over 50 who have been unemployed for a long time. The government reports on unemployment aren’t just the black-and-white numbers of people without jobs. The unemployment rate makes today’s employment landscape seem optimistic, and it’s certainly better than it was in 2008, but the 4.9% number currently reported by the U.S. Department of Labor counts only those who have been actively looking for work within the past four weeks. The reality is that there are plenty of people excluded from the narrow definition we use to describe unemployment. Our economy has added over 8.7 million jobs since 2007, but the serious problem is that most of that job growth has been in low wage or temporary jobs, many that don’t offer benefits. The 78 consecutive months of net job growth – the longest streak in modern history, and undoubtedly a step in the right direction – is not exactly leading to social harmony (see, for example: Trump, Donald).
None of these statistics help with the depression, anxiety, and embarrassment of the elderly unemployed, but what might help is knowing that they’re not alone. The truth is that unemployment is quite common for those over 50. It’s not a nice story, but it’s a common one.
Here’s the good news: there are jobs out there! And I have some suggestions for those of you who are looking. First and foremost, I recommend to everyone that you talk about not having and wanting a job. Talk to your friends, talk to your family, “let it out” as they say. Second, I think it’s important that you meditate or pray on it, whatever your spiritual practice may be. Getting rid of the stress surrounding unemployment is a big step towards being proactive about finding a job. Last and most importantly, consider “re-inventing yourself” in the workforce, even if it means taking a temporary, part time, or volunteer job. Getting out of the house is half the battle. I know someone who was a top-producing rep for Herman Miller, who now is a manager at Trader Joe’s and loving it. I have another friend who used to work at a major dealer, who is now selling Real Estate. My friends who are older, but working hourly jobs, seem happier than those who insist on staying unemployed until their ship comes back in. Guess what? I don’t think it’s coming back in. Face the new reality of today’s economy. I’m not saying run out and open up your own business. I’m saying run out and open your mind; care less about the status of your new job and more about just finding one.