LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- In December 2007, less than one-fourth of the Americans 55 or older who were job hunting had been unemployed for 27 or more weeks. That's according to AARP.
As of last May, that proportion had increased to more than half of older job seekers, with an unknown number of discouraged would-be workers quietly sliding into involuntary retirement.
The unemployment rate for those 55 and over has jumped 103.1 percent since the recession began.
"Baby boomers come with a lot of expertise, a lot of experience, leadership. They're known to be very dependable, honest, reliable," says Arkansas AARP Director, Maria Reynolds-Diaz
The positive traits go on and on for the Baby Boomer generation, so why are so many unemployed? Reynolds-Diaz says a slumbering economy is to blame.
"Well there are probably some changes in our economic markets that are closing down some opportunities," says Reynolds-Diaz.
Arkansas has one of the lower unemployment rates for people over 50 in the U.S., at only 5.6 percent according to the 2010 Census. Kimberly Friedman of the Department of workforce services says older Arkansans have a lot to offer.
"They have work experience that a lot of the younger populations and generations do not have. And we know with the mature worker initiative through the state... that employers, when they hire somebody who is 50 plus, they're getting a dedicated employee," says Friedman.
Reynolds-Diaz says many times middle-aged job seekers face larger learning gaps especially if venturing into a career change.
"What's next? People get to the point where they have done, they've maybe reached the pinnacle of what they've wanted to accomplish and they want to try something new," says Reynolds-Diaz.
Both Diaz and Friedman say the old age stigma from employers is overshadowed with the hopes of locking down experience and kept in check by labor laws.
AARP launched a new website to help baby boomers wanting to start their own business: WorkReimagined
Also, Arkansas Workforce Development Services offers an online resource site: ARJobLink
Top work fields for 50+: http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-06-2011/jobs-for-a-second-career.2.html