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Age and Long-Term Unemployment

Ezra Klein:

Ezra Klein - Too young not to work, too old to get a job: The interplay between age and unemployment really worries me. On some level, we have a rosy view of "structural unemployment": It's a guy in Reno, Nev., who has skills better suited to the job market in Boulder, Colo. That's not an easy problem to fix -- our Reno resident doesn't scan Boulder's "help wanted" ads -- but it at least points toward a way the problem can be fixed. But a lot of older workers have found that employers just don't want to hire them. They are, in the words of one job-seeker in Warren County, N.J., "too young not to work, but too old to work." Or, more to the point, too old to get a job. When they apply for jobs much below their previous position, they're rejected as overqualified. When they try to hold the line, employers default to younger workers. And in both cases, there's a quiet assumption that young workers will be better at learning new skills than older workers will be.

Eventually, the unemployment rate in this country will come down. But it's very likely that there'll still be a core of a couple of million hardcore unemployed -- people who're a bit older, who're underwater on their houses in an area with a weak labor market, and who are becoming less employable as both their age and their time out of work come to seem more and more glaring on their resumes. What are we going to do for them?