Is the Senior Employment Situation Improving?

The Federal government (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) reported that the unemployment rate ‘was essentially unchanged’ although employment increased by 175,000 jobs in May.

unemployment downThe senior population (age 55+) unemployment statistics have been improving this year on the face of things- steadily reducing each month from 6.0% in January to 5.3% in May. Female seniors are driving this improvement; their unemployment has steadily decreased from 5.9% in January to 4.3% in May. While the male senior population also decreased in the first quarter from 6.2% in January to 5.7% in March, the improvement sputtered in April and then up-ticked to 5.8% in May.

These numbers still account that there are 1.76 million seniors who want to work and cannot find employment; this does not count under-employed seniors (those who accept part-time employment although they desire full-time work). Compared to the prior month’s unemployment figure of 1.825 million, it is a 5.2% improvement, and almost 16% improvement over the prior-year month’s 2.09 million unemployed seniors.

Although there is hope in these numbers, the same report notes that of all the unemployed, 54% remain unemployed for over 15 weeks and over a third (37%) remain unemployed for over a half-year.

So overall is this good news, or disappointing? I believe that we can all agree that the job hemorrhaging that started in 2008 has subsided, but how much steam does this recovery engine really have? Is the glass half empty or half full?

In a related topic, Philip Moeller (Is an Extended Senior Career in Your Future?) discusses the effects of baby boom demographics on the extended duration of careers. He argues that businesses find it in their best interests to hire seniors for responsible positions and presents several ways that businesses can make concessions to seniors to make a longer career palatable to the demands of their older life situations. Maybe that glass is half full after all!

Financial Apocalypse – Fact & Fiction

four horsemen of the ApocalypseAccording to the media and our folks in Washington, the federal budget cuts that went into effect in March should have triggered a financial apocalypse for older Americans.

I’m not saying that people haven’t lost jobs and funding hasn’t been cut to government services. That’s true. What I am saying is that just a couple of months after the dire predictions, few senior citizens have been truly trampled by sword-bearing ghosts riding horses  – in great part because we live in the most generous, caring nation in the world.

Prediction #1: Social Security recipients will suffer through longer waits in the doctor’s office, waiting “on hold” for telephone assistance, and long delays to receive benefit decisions. According to AARP (May 30, 2013), both the folks working at your local social security office, and the seniors they serve, will experience higher levels of frustration and that tempers will veer out of control.

On reflection, I can’t help but note that If calling the social security administration office has been such a pleasant experience before sequestration, then why have threats against SSA employees increased by 20 percent since 2011? On the other hand, if you or someone you know has, I invite you to comment to this blog.

Prediction #2: Meals on Wheels program will go away. Not quite, but it does appear that the Feds would like to get out of the meals business. Cuts were so severe that some centers now close at least one day a week leaving many elderly people hungry, and without the companionship they look forward to everyday.

Meals on Wheels’ national organization reports that, on average, 364 meals per week have been cut and certain programs downsized. What is more surprising is why the federal government was funding the program in the first place! Donations to Meals on Wheels is tax deductible including vehicle, boats, RVs and planes. Centers across the nation are getting creative to stay afloat. On the bright side, many of the MOW centers are not government-run organizations and caring donors are stepping up to the plate.

Prediction #3. Medicare will be cut. Actually, the sequester doesn’t affect Medicare benefits and seniors will see no direct changes in their benefit under sequestration. However, doctors who accept Medicare patients and the hospitals who care for them are getting a 2 percent pay cut. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on our seniors on an individual basis.

Prediction #4. National Parks will close for the summer. Parks are enjoyed by seniors whenever the weather is favorable. They are a wonderfully affordable vacation destination. Luckily, most parks will remain open, though they may have shorter hours or close some less frequented areas. As long as you check ahead, everyone should still be able to enjoy Americas’ natural treasures.

In the end, there seems to have been a great deal of political posturing going on about the ramifications of sequestration. At the end of the day, innovation and the American way will find ways to take care of our seniors’ needs – at least until September 30, 2013, when the Fed’s fiscal year comes to a close and we get to go through all this budget stuff again.