It's the best—and worst—of times for older workers.
The unemployment rate for Americans 55 and older is lower than for any other age group the government tracks, and far below the national average. But if an older worker loses a job, the length of time that person will stay unemployed is typically much longer than for any other age group.
"There's a much higher prevalence of unemployment among young people, but the time that you spend in that state is much shorter," said Linda Barrington, executive director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University.
(Read more: Jobless claims down, private jobs up)
Darrel Keesee, 61, is among those struggling to find new work. This past January, he lost a job as a package handler with a major delivery company after working there for four years.
The Mesa, Ariz., resident has sent out countless resumes and kept himself busy volunteering in his community and at his church. But he says what he really wants is the satisfaction of going to a paying job every day.
(Read more: Most would keep job after lottery win)
"It's been difficult," he said.
Keesee said he's been lucky in that his wife has a steady job, and for now he is still collecting unemployment. But the financial toll of this job loss, combined with several other bouts of unemployment over the past decade or so, has been significant.
"After the unemployment ends I may very well have to look at losing my home—the home that we brought our kids home to," he said.
The unemployment rate for workers ages 55 and over was 5 percent in July, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's still higher than historical averages, but it's much lower than the overall unemployment rate of 7.4 percent, and below the unemployment rate for any younger group of workers.
The government is scheduled to release August employment numbers on Friday, and forecasters are expecting the economy to have added around 200,000 jobs.
(Read more: Ouch! Why a public firing is so awful for everyone)
Workers ages 55 and over also are the only ones to have seen their ranks grow substantially since 2007, the year the nation went into recession. There were 31.6 million employed people age 55 and over in July, according to the BLS, up from 25.9 million in July of 2007.
That's partly demographics: As baby boomers age, more are becoming part of the 55-plus cohort.
But workers also appear to be staying on the job longer. The average age of retirement has slowly crept up to age 61, according to a Gallup poll released earlier this year, and government data show that the share of people working past age 65 also has been increasing.