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For Jobless Over 50, A Challenging Search For Work

People of all ages have been frustrated by the job market and the unemployment rate for those 55 and older was 5.3 percent in September, lower than the 7.2 percent rate among all ages. By comparison, unemployment among those 20-24 was 12.9 percent, and among those 25-54, 6.2 percent.

But long-term unemployment has been rampant among the oldest job seekers. Unemployed people aged 45 to 54 were out of work 45 weeks on average, those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks and those 65 and older average 51 weeks.

Younger workers were unemployed for shorter periods of time.

Sixty-three percent of those who searched for a job cited financial need and 19 percent said it was because they were laid off. Far smaller numbers searched because they wanted to change careers, find a better salary or benefits, escape unhappiness at a prior job or simply get out of the house.

Lynch, of San Gabriel, Calif., hated taking a step down after the earlier layoffs, but this time only one interview has come from 70-some applications.

"It's starting at the bottom," she said. "And frankly, I'm getting too old to be starting at the bottom."

Bob Gershberg, a corporate recruiter in St. Petersburg, Fla., said unemployed people, regardless of age, have had trouble getting rehired. But he said older workers have faced an added layer of skepticism from employers.

"They'll say, 'Give me the young guy. Give me the up-and-comer. Someone with fire in the belly," he said. "But there's always been a bias against the unemployed. They say, 'If she was so good, why'd she get cut?'"

Sharon Hulce, who runs a recruitment firm in Appleton, Wis., said she's found some employers are concerned that applicants in their late 50s or 60s may not stick around for the long haul.

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