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The 2010 Boomer Job Squeeze

For the 1.6 million unemployed Americans between the ages of 55 and 64, this holiday season is one big Bah Humbug!

Another way to examine this demographic group is to count the percentage of those who are actually still employed: 59.9% in November. That’s down versus October and an eight-year low for this large and active age group. It suggests that the real number of 55-64 year-olds who may want to work but don’t officially feature in the jobless count is way more than 1.6 million.

Former U.S. Navy airman Gerard Golden, 56, arrives to a job fair for veterans on December 10, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.
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Former U.S. Navy airman Gerard Golden, 56, arrives to a job fair for veterans on December 10, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.

Many of these individuals are managers and executives who have been squeezed out by reductions in force at companies eager to unload their big salaries and hefty benefit packages. No doubt there is age discrimination facing their prospects of landing a new job, especially with so many U.S. companies trimming their sails. And that, in turn, means many Americans in the 55-64 group have unwillingly “retired” in 2009 – and many more are strongly considering the possibility (or, confronting the reality) in the holiday season before 2010.

These folks are dipping early into their retirement funds or triggering – early – their social security payments. And many of these folks weren’t even planning to retire at 65; for them, this is becoming “extra-early” retirement.

Even if you are not in this age group, this is bad news for you as an exec because we’ve all been counting on this large population bracket to buck historical trends and keeping spending freely into their Springsteen 60’s – all the way to the Eastwood 80’s. But if we kick them out of the workforce prematurely – and at least a few horses are already out of the barn on this one – we’re putting our already fragile economy at even further risk.

Many of these folks are willing to work now for less – less salary and fewer benefits. They know what they’re doing and they have more energy than any 55-64 group in history. As the President, the Congress and responsible business leaders struggle to drum up more jobs for Americans in 2010, it would behoove them to consider this valuable group.

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Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

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