Nightly News   |  October 18, 2011

Job market even tougher for older Americans

A Government Accountability Office report shows that, since 2007, unemployment rates doubled and remained higher than before the recession for workers aged 55 and older. These workers also have a tougher time finding a new job. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

WILLIAMS: Good evening.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We want to begin tonight with new evidence that the recession has been especially cruel to Americans in the age group once considered to be entering the comfort zone in the American workplace, the victory lap years, those age 55 and over. Folks over 55 have not recovered from the recession. In fact, their unemployment rate has doubled since 2007 .

Source: AARP

WILLIAMS: Half the folks at or near retirement age think they won't have enough money to retire.

Source: Insured Retirement Inst.

WILLIAMS: Half of seniors experiencing money trouble have put off medical or dental care or stopped taking their medications.

Source: GAO

WILLIAMS: It would be nice if it was temporary, but nobody can bet on that as retirement approaches. And we begin here tonight with NBC 's Anne Thompson .

ANNE THOMPSON reporting: This recession has spared no one, but a new government report shows it's devastated older workers. People 55 and up who lost their jobs are less likely to find new ones. The amount of time to find a job tripled for workers 65 and older, going from 11 weeks in 2007 to 31 last year, a lag that continues today, says the CEO of retirementjobs.com.

Mr. TIM DRIVER (Retirementjobs.com Inc. CEO): We do see that. It takes people over the age of 50 about 30 percent longer to find work once they've lost their job.

THOMPSON: Sixty-four -year-old Mary Colangelo knows just how hard it is .

Ms. MARY COLANGELO: I send in applications all the time. I get no response from them.

THOMPSON: It's been more than two years since this Florida office manager had a full-time job.

Ms. COLANGELO: I think it's my age. I think a lot of companies feel that the younger people have more time to offer or whatever. But I don't want to retire.

Ms. GAIL RUGGLES: I never planned to be broke. I never planned to be out of work.

THOMPSON: Gail Ruggles told a congressional hearing today she couldn't make ends meet with a series of part-time jobs.

Ms. RUGGLES: You don't shop for new clothes, you don't get your glasses fixed, you don't -- you know, you're supposed to take a medication seven days a week, so you take it four so you can stretch it out.

THOMPSON: Sometimes the money can't stretch far enough. An AARP survey reports almost a quarter of people 50-plus say they exhausted all of their savings between 2007 and 2010 , and many of them had jobs.

50 24.7% spent savings 2007 - 2010

THOMPSON: Fifty-three -year-old Chris Williams is so frustrated he's joined the Occupy protest movement.

Mr. CHRIS WILLIAMS: Nobody wants to be out of work. It's demoralizing.

THOMPSON: Since losing his job at a corporate law firm three years ago, the document handler scrambles for odd jobs and things he once took for granted.

Mr. WILLIAMS: You eat when it's necessary. Sometimes there are days that I have to -- gone with only -- with one meal a day.

THOMPSON: And then there is the time crunch. Older workers have less time to recover from financial hits, and many are already suffering from declines in the value of their homes and investments. This report paints a very scary picture for people looking at growing medical bills and shrinking

opportunities. Brian: Awful news to start off with. Anne Thompson here with us in New York . Thanks, as always.

WILLIAMS: