The labor market in the United States is the strongest it has been in half a century. Unemployment is at a shockingly low 3.6 percent, and 109 months of consecutive job gains have raised wages and hours for many Americans.
But Patricia Cohen, a reporter who covers the national economy for The Times, found that many people who have lost their job are still struggling to find work that provides a middle-class income. After her article published, many readers shared their own experiences with long and discouraging job hunts.
Below is a selection of those reader comments, which have been lightly edited.
(The U.S. economy added 128,000 jobs in October. Read the latest on the October jobs report.)
Experience ‘gone to waste’
I am a 70-year-old physician who was a full professor at a medical school and ran a training program with 88 physicians. I have a good reputation in my field. I resigned my position two years ago over policy differences and I have been unable to find anything but entry level positions.
Is it ageism or the uncertainty prevalent in medical education or lack of star power or lack of charisma that has kept me from a position where I can use my long experience? I feel my experience has all gone to waste.
— Steve Greenberg, Kernersville, N.C.
I was laid off in 2008 during the financial meltdown and lost my benefits including health insurance. I had great credentials and experience galore but age and gender worked against me.
After about four years of throwing myself against the proverbial brick wall, I gave up the job search. I was incredibly fortunate that my husband had his own small company that survived the recession and I was able to utilize my financial background to successfully manage our personal money and provide for retirement.
We were among the lucky ones, but my not being able to find a job really took an emotional and financial toll.
— Janet Wheeler, Stow, Mass.
I’ve been a recruiter for 25 years. I’ve watched clients blindly pivot to younger candidate résumés for no viable reason. It’s a sad and unnecessary bias.
Personally, I can report that once my former boss learned I was 50, I lost my “most favorite status” and was pushed out of my former company after five years of exceptional service.
I now work for myself, which is great and daunting, but I really didn’t have a choice. Now, when I go visit clients, I scan the open office for people like me. Sadly, there aren’t any.
When I ask if ageism is part of a company’s diversity training, I get puzzled looks.
There’s absolutely a problem here.
— Daren J. Mongello, New York City
One may think that age discrimination occurs only here in the United States. Not so.
My sister, with a Ph.D, works in London. She, too, is paid less than her male peers. She mentioned to me that she was looking for another position. She said, “Who wants a wrinkly old lady?”
She’s only 58.
— Jeremy Rubock, West Hartford, Conn.
I was a “data processing” headhunter for 30 years through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and I can let you in on a little secret: age discrimination was, and still is, the only form of discrimination still allowed in these litigious times.
If you could code, it didn’t matter if you were a minority, a woman or right off the boat — there was a job for you in the burgeoning tech market.
However, no matter how skilled you were, if you were over 50, you “didn’t fit in with the culture of the company” or “couldn’t grow with the company.”
— Richard Gage, Mount Dora, Fla.
The digital gatekeepers
When job applicants apply to a position, it’s done online electronically. Résumés are being screened by an algorithm with few of them being forwarded to a real person to read. This is a real problem.
My brother-in-law has a graduate degree from a prestigious university and has produced measurable results for the companies he’s worked for but he has been out of work for two years and is still looking.
— Annabelle Shedd, San Clemente, Calif.
Finding one’s niche — at a price
I have two master’s degrees and worked as a librarian at an Ivy League university for 14 years. I was drummed out in 2009 after the subprime mortgage swindle.
I had applied to more than 2,000 jobs in New York before looking at my life, packing up and moving to Oshkosh merely because a friend of mine was from there.
I never did get even one interview in librarianship. Instead, I went to a psychiatrist, got a diagnosis for generalized anxiety disorder, applied for Social Security disability, appealed the denial and got the benefits, including rudimentary health care and SNAP benefits.
I started maxing out my credit cards intentionally on car repairs, rent, my mother’s medical bills and other non-negotiables.
I forwarded my phone calls to a non-working number and I now live on those disability benefits.
I supplement up to the legal limit by substitute teaching in classes for special education and emotionally disabled children. Nobody else wants to do it, I’m excellent at working with those children. My bilingualism with Spanish is in high demand here.
I found my niche at a very high mental and financial price.
My credit score went from 780 to 584 in six months.
But my anxiety is controlled. I have real friends and I am at peace.
— David Moore, Oshkosh, Wis.
Advice to the young
I tell every young person I know to consider pursuing self employment and entrepreneurship. I see some of my educated, bright and capable younger acquaintances stuck in dead end jobs or out of work. They look at me like I’m crazy.
I am retired but I worked a mix of self employed, corporate and nonprofit jobs in my day. Self employment was the best.
— Julie Zuckerman, Florence, Mass.