Things are finally looking up for older workers.
According to Money Magazine the latest data show the unemployment rate for those age 50+ stands at just 3.6%, compared with 5% for the total population and a steep 16.4% for teens. The ranks of the long-term unemployed, which ballooned during the recession as mature workers lost their jobs, are coming down.
The Committee on Economic Development predicts as the population ages, older Americans will play an increasingly important role in our economy and America’s leadership in the world marketplace. By 2019, they expect over 40% of Americans aged 50+ will be employed, making up over 25% of the U.S. labor force.
The business case for hiring 50+ workers is clear: they like to work harder, stay longer, and have the soft skills employers find lacking in younger employees – professionalism, written communications skills, analytical skills, and interpersonal skills. According to AARP, some leading American businesses are gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage by employing and retaining 50+ workers.
Here are the five critical reasons cited by AARP to hire 50+ workers:
- They have soft skills employers say they need.
- They are more motivated than younger workers.
- They are more loyal and more likely to stay with their company.
- They are a growing percentage of the labor force.
- They have a “strong capacity and willingness to learn.”
American business faces a skills crisis with 40% of companies reporting difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent. Overwhelmingly, business leaders point to those soft skills — as the critical piece that is often missing from their talent pools. 50+ workers have spent decades honing soft skills, which can continue to improve until very late in life. Towers Watson Research says older workers are more motivated to exceed expectations on the job than their younger counterparts. Motivation is strongly tied to employee engagement, and better engagement means better bottom-line financial performance.
Even Hollywood’s taken notice of boomers reentering the workforce: One of the last year’s biggest films, “The Intern,” focused on a septuagenarian played by Robert De Niro whose experience and life skills helped turn around the business run by wunderkind Anne Hathaway.
This is not to say that older workers have it easy. Overall, the long-term unemployment rate remains stubbornly high—31.5%. And even though age-discrimination charges have declined they remain at peak pre-recession levels. Plus, critics note that even some corporate re-entry programs are not a great deal, paying little or no salary and distracting workers from seeking full-time gainful employment.