By Larry Teren
Maybe baby boomers should move to Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, in Arkansas those over the age of fifty had a 5.6% unemployment rate. Compare that to Arkansas’ general population unemployment rate of 7.3% as of August 2012. For the nation as a whole, the rate was 8.3%. Arkansas seems to be the land of relative opportunity.
Some media outlets are publicizing a study conducted by encore.org (identified as owned by Civic Ventures, a non-profit think tank). They say that about nine million people between the ages of 44 to 70 (the brunt of which are baby boomers) are experiencing mid-life economic crises (ain’t we all?) and finding resolution by working in more socially meaningful jobs. This includes working in heath care and ecologically aware business opportunities.
Hey, there may be some altruism and social consciousness involved, but maybe a lot of it has to do that boomers have figured out that the jobs of the future will be mostly government mandated ones. It’s called survival of the fittest. Even if it means getting less pay, if it presents a job opportunity and it means working for a hospital corporation or home health assistance provider- a job is a job.
Baby boomers went through the same situation in the early 1980s when the workplace started to throw out all the IBM Selectric ball-head typewriters and replace them with word-processors. When businesses figured out that they did not need three people sitting at an adding machine cranking the handle eight hours a day and transcribing numbers with a pencil on a piece of column paper, the boomers went out and learned how to use Lotus 123 and other spreadsheets. It meant less people were needed and those that could quickly master navigating electronic worksheets were the ones who got the job.
This business of finding new work at less pay wouldn’t be so bad if the cost of gas, a new car and the monthly mortgage payment would also automatically be reduced proportionately. However, the banks, gas refiners and auto manufacturers don’t want to cooperate. Greed, however, cannot last one-sided in the long run.
In December 2007, less than 25% of those over the age of fifty-five who were unemployed were still looking for work after 27 or more weeks. According to AARP, close to five year later that number is over 50%. Yikes! It should also be noted that the researchers took into account those who officially gave up trying to find a job as their unemployment compensation pay stopped.
Except for the higher educated and more qualified baby boomers, many of these unemployed are unhappily accepting jobs at lower pay and benefits from previous jobs. It used to be that employers did not hire the overqualified at lower pay because they knew that once the opportunity for a better job would happen, the employee would quit and take it. Now, many employers do not seem fazed by that reality and are willing to take the most talented person at a lower skilled job figuring that it will be quite a while before better opportunities arise. In the meantime, they get an up-scaled staff.
These non-profit think tanks better soon come up with some solutions on how to put everything back into proportion. In the meantime, my own research shows that encore.org also has a vested interest in coaching baby boomers in how to go about establishing new careers. For those of you who are not moving to Arkansas and feel you have nothing to lose by checking them out, click on
Note: We do not endorse nor discredit encore.org. We have no experience in dealing with them. We bring up their name because of other blogs and media sites reporting on their research.