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Faces and numbers behind senior job hunters

Linda Porsi of Seminole, second from left, receives information from Donald Lawson, an operations manager with Digital Reception Services, Inc., during an AARP-sponsored career fair at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Linda Porsi of Seminole, second from left, receives information from Donald Lawson, an operations manager with Digital Reception Services, Inc., during an AARP-sponsored career fair at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

This economic recession has been dubbed a "he-cession" because, at least early on, male workers bore the brunt of layoffs.

To a certain segment of the population, however, it also clearly qualifies as a "gray-cession."

A greater percentage of older Americans are in the labor force than any time in the last 40 years, and the jobless rate of the 55-plus set has more than doubled during this downturn. A 7 percent unemployment rate for those 55 and older is still far below that of younger job seekers. Once unemployed, however, older workers tend to be out of work longer than their younger counterparts.

That's in part because the rules of finding a job have changed along with the job skills employers are seeking, said Victoria Funes, an AARP representative who helped organize a job fair for seniors on Tuesday that drew about 1,000 job seekers to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. About 200 of them attended a workshop, and 96 of them signed up for one-on-one counseling.

"Many of them have been out of the job market for a while. Many of them have been in a job for a while," Funes said. "The business of looking for a job has changed."

For one, applicants have to go online for most job openings. They have to be adept at not only navigating websites, but also using the right keywords in a resume to increase the odds of getting noticed.

Job seeker Elizabeth Hmel, 59, said it was nice to go to a job fair where employers weren't just focused on 20-somethings.

"Imagine the amount of experience in this room," she said.

“Most of what I'm finding here are opportunities for people to go back to school. It would be very difficult for me to go back after being out of school for 40 years."

Rick Boggs, 57, of Ruskin

Last job: U.S. Postal Service

"I think it's tough all over. I haven't worked since Christmas. … I'm definitely (open) to retraining or any type of sales. I can sell anything."

Elizabeth Hmel, 59, of Parrish

Last job: gemologist

"I've been looking for a year. You can't look for what you had before, because it's not out there. … I've been a motivational speaker. It's hard for me now to get motivated."

MaryAnne Cunningham-Ismael, 58, of St. Petersburg

Last job: suicide prevention counseling

Unemployed seniors 75+

April 2006: 20,000

July 2010: 80,000

July 2010 unemployment rate

50 to 54 years old: 7.6 percent

55 years and over: 6.9 percent

U.S. average: 9.5 percent

Florida: 11.5 percent

Median age

by occupation*

Bus service and urban transit: 51 years

Knitting fabric mills: 50.5 years

Used merchandise stores: 48.5 years

Agriculture/forestry/fishing: 48.2 years

Metalworking machinery: 47 years

Motion pictures and video industries: 34.6 years

*2009 survey

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Faces and numbers behind senior job hunters 08/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:38am]
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