Long-term unemployment and older workers
Catherine Rampell, in the New York Times (May 12), presents an argument that the rise in long-term unemployment is a consequence of the destruction of many jobs, in manufacturing, but also in administrative support, office, clerical, and similar fields, have been destroyed by technical change and will not come back. She also argues that those jobs that have been destroyed had been held disproportionately by older workers, with the consequence that long-term unemployment--which has skyrocketed--has been concentrated on older workers.
The first part of that argument seems to me to be sound. But for the second--the concentration of long-term unemployment among older-workers--I can find no evidence. There would be, I think, two consequences of concentration of long-term unemployment among older workers. First, unemployment rates of older workers would have risen relative ot the overall unemployment rate. Second, labor force participation rates of older workers would have declined relative to the overall labor force participation rate. Neither of these have happened.
Let's look at look at the unemployment rates for (a) the overall population, (b) workers age 55-59, and (c) workers age 60-64. I can't seem to be able to paste the resulting chart here, but it shows, so far as I can tell, no difference in the patterns of change in the unemployment rate for these three groups. For older workers, the unemployment rate bottomed out at about 2% in 2006, rose to about 8% early this year, and has since fallen to a little less than 7%. The overall unemployment rate bottomed out at around 4% in the spring of 2006, rose to a litle over 10% early this year, and has since fallen to a little less than 10%. (I'm using not-seasonally-adjusted reates, which is all that's available for older workers.)
So let's look at labor force participation. While the overall labor force participation rate has been declining (from about 67% in 2000 to about 65% now), labor force participation has been increasing among older workers. For 55-59-year-olds, it's up from about 69% in 2000 to about 74% now. For 60-64-year-olds, up from about 47% in 2000 to about 64% now.
I see literally nothing to suggest that long-term unemployment is, in fact, concentrated among older workers.
(All data from the BLS.)