Daily Video

December 11, 2009

Tough Job Market Hurting Older Workers

With the nation’s unemployment rising to its highest level in more than 25 years, NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at how older workers are struggling to secure a job and prepare for their retirement.

The jobless rate for workers over 45 has more than doubled since the start of the recession, hitting a record 7.5 percent last month. Many older workers are losing out to their younger counterparts who are often more comfortable with modern technology and willing to work for less.

There are currently more job seekers than their are jobs and older workers find that they face discrimination in hiring decisions, with companies preferring to take on younger applicants. At the same time, older Americans are more likely to have families to support and own homes with monthly mortgage bills.

An AARP study released last year found that 60 percent of workers aged 45-74 had either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

In this video report, Paul Solman talks to older job seekers who are looking for jobs instead of looking toward retirement.


“People cannot be discriminated against because of their age. That doesn’t mean that older workers aren’t losing jobs in large numbers and competing for jobs with people half their age, and knowing that their skills may not be as competitive.” – Abby Snay, Jewish Vocational Service

“We’re very good at many other things, excellent, as a matter of fact, but we’re not skilled at looking for work. We have been doing our careers all this long time.” – Sandy Gasser, photo stylist

“Today’s 65-year-olds have less than half the chance of dying within a year as 65-year-olds did in 1950. They are not the same age; they are healthier; they are much further from death; they’re younger. A year of life today is not the same unit as it was in 1950, just like a dollar today is not the same unit as a dollar was in 1950.” – John Shoven, Stanford University

Warm Up Questions

1. What does it mean to be unemployed?

2. What is discrimination?

3. What is job discrimination?

4. If you owned a business, what kind of workers would you want to hire?

Discussion Questions

1. In what ways might younger people be better workers than older people? And how might older people be the better workers?

2. Do you think it is fair for a young, unpaid intern to replace an old well-paid worker?

3. Do you think American workers should retire later than 65 or not? If so, at what age? Why?

4. When people stop working, what money do they live off of?

5. If workers retire later, how will it affect their savings for retirement? 6. What would you suggest the older workers in San Francisco do to increase their prospects of finding a job? What would you do in their shoes? How would you feel?

7. Why do employers discriminate against older workers even though it is against the law? How do they do it?

8. Why do you think a young employer might hesitate to hire an older, more experienced candidate?

9. Can you think of ways to decrease age discrimination? Or, do you worry more about “youth discrimination”?

10. Were you surprised to hear that people love to work and want to get back to working? Do you expect to enjoy work so much that you would feel that way?

11. What do you think these people might have done earlier in life to have prepared for their current situation?

12. How would you advise these people today–since they can’t do anything about their age or the other choices they have made earlier in life?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript of this report

In-depth Coverage: Making Sen$e

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