By Christopher Harper
Amid the carnage of economic shutdowns during the pandemic, baby boomers have suffered more than any other age group, according to MarketWatch.com.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 900,000 Americans between the ages of 60 and 69 lost their jobs between December 2019 and December 2020, a 5 percent decline in the number of employed people in that age group. Some 21.2 million Americans in their 60s are no longer in the labor force, the BLS reported.
MarketWatch interviewed several people in their 60s, with long records of professional success who were “trying to find purpose or, at least, some income to help pay the bills. None of them ran a hedge fund or cashed out in an IPO. None attended Ivy League colleges but went to state universities or technical schools and lived solid middle-class lives as loyal, productive employees, raising families on high five- to low six-figure incomes.”
All had been laid off with no explanation. Those interviewed had sent out dozens of resumes but got few job interviews and even fewer offers. All firmly believed they faced systemic age discrimination.
Curtis Berndt, 65, told MarketWatch that he thinks that people eliminated him because of his age, “You go in, they look at you, and they say ‘too old,’ and you’re done.”
Berndt began as a draftsman and then moved into product design. For more than 40 years, all in Indiana, he did advanced quality control and streamlined manufacturing processes to reduce defects and improve efficiency.
“Everything was good, and then all of a sudden — and I mean, really, all of a sudden–there was a huge financial issue, and they decided they were going to have to get rid of people,” he said. “I had just turned 65, and three days later, they didn’t need me anymore. It’s impossible to prove, but they assured me that my age had nothing to do with it.”
Berndt has applied for about 50 full-time job openings and gotten a handful of interviews.
“They say everything’s good until the face-to-face interview, and then it’s dead. From other people I’ve talked to in my age group, that’s pretty much the pattern,” he said.
When Karen Mater was a young geologist working on oil wells in southern Indiana, a male rig worker said to her one day, “I don’t think women belong in oil fields. What do you think?”
“I said, ‘Well, I’m the wrong person to answer, because here I am,’” she told MarketWatch.
But the strain on her young family of being away for two or three weeks at a time caused her to change careers. Using the computer knowledge she’d acquired as a geologist, she took a job at nearby Central Michigan University, where she had earned her master’s degree.
Twenty-three years later, in August, the university let her and others go.
“They decided they had to really slim down, and for whatever reason, they picked my job to eliminate,” she said.
Since then, she’s applied to at least 45 jobs, but with no luck.
While Berndt and Mater said they should be all right financially, more than half of those 55 and older are expected to end their lives in poverty, MarketWatch reported, mainly as a result of the shutdown of the U.S. economy during the past year.
My generation is in trouble. I hope someone in the Biden White House is paying attention!