Editor’s note — This article is the final in a series concerning the job market in McPherson County and how it relates to national trends. It contains information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, AARP, researchers in the field and local professionals.

Grandparents are excellent babysitters, treat-providers and all-around encouragers, but would you hire them over a younger applicant?

Workers over age 65 took a hit in the recession, like many groups, but they’ve seen slower recovery from the market’s high unemployment rate, partly because of age discrimination.

In the study, “Age Discrimination and Hiring of Older Workers,” researchers found that the callback rate for interviews was uniformly lower for their 40,000-person sample of older applicants, which they describe as consistent with age discrimination in hiring. In one aspect of the study, female applicants 64 to 66 years old had a 47 percent lower callback rate than young female applicants, 29 to 31 years old, for administrative assistant jobs. Older female applicants for sales jobs had a 36 percent lower callback rate than young female applicants.

Another issue is that the nature of employment isn’t what it once was when older workers first started their jobs.

Jana McKinney, McPherson County K-State Research and Extension agent, counsels individuals in the county in a number of big life decisions.

“When I was growing up, my dad had one job and seems like that is what everyone did — one job, job security and the benefits were good. Now, job security is not really a thing,” McKinney said. “It is normal for a person to lose their job with the economy and people get laid off or their jobs get eliminated as part of a restructuring. It can be very devastating to people to get laid off, or lose their job. I see many that come in unsure about understanding insurance, especially since they have just always had it and knew they didn't really have any options.”

Overcoming perceptions

It’s very common to lose a life-long job, McKinney said, so most older workers will jump back in and search for something new, which can be a great benefit to employers.

“The life experiences, knowledge and wisdom that an older worker brings to a workforce is a benefit, and I believe that more employers are beginning to see that benefit. The work ethic of an older employee is very different than that of a younger person,” McKinney said. “The common sense of an older worker is also a benefit. Because of their life experiences, they know how to deal with difficult situations, conflicts, problem solve, etc that just comes with experience.”

However, employers don’t always take the bait in a timely fashion.

The time it takes to find a job has increased in recent years.

According to DHI Hiring Indicators, the average opening sat unfilled for 28.1 days in 2016, up from 19.3 days in 2001-2003. Industries having the toughest time hiring are health care with 47.8 days, financial services with 43.5 days, government at 36.7 days and manufacturing at 33.4 days.

For older workers, job wages tend to relate to that time span.

According to a study by the AARP Public Policy Institute, the probability of earning less differed substantially by the length of unemployment. About 59 percent of the reemployed who suffered a long-term spell of unemployment were earning less compared with 41 percent who had been short-term unemployed.

The problem many aging workers face is a decrease in retirement savings and an increase in life expectancy.

Older workers stay on the job to ensure income after retirement, but that future fades when older employees are suddenly out of work and new jobs pay less.

In the AARP study, researchers found that 48 percent of the re-employed said that they were earning less on their current jobs than the job they had before becoming unemployed. Among the re-employed, half were earning less because they were being paid less, 10 percent were working fewer hours, and 39 percent gave both as reasons.

How can older employees make the best of unemployment?

Finding freedom

Unemployment can be frightening when it’s unplanned, but older workers might have the upper hand in their search.

“To me, I think the best benefit when looking for a job nearing retirement is most of them have raised their family, perhaps their home is paid off, they've achieved much of what they wanted to achieve, and now, can be more self-centered in their job search,” McKinney said. “Maybe they don't have to try to be flexible to attend children's programs and activities, perhaps they've lost their spouse, maybe they are ready to travel. The job opportunities may be more broad, rather than being geographically based.”

Rather than jumping right back into a 9-to-5 slog, older workers can make the best of retirement opportunities to still earn an income while taking a risk on a lifelong dream.

“Many times people will retire, and then, go get a job that they really have always been interested in, but unable or afraid to pursue because of the safety of having their main job,” McKinney said. “Many who retire to get their retirement benefit and continue working for the same organization.”

What to look for

Organizations like AARP recommend part-time work for retirees because they offer more flexibility in how workers spend their time. The top recommendation is to shift a current job to a part-time schedule, but a career change is still a possibility.

AARP suggests retirees look for work as librarians, home care aids, account managers or medical record transcribers. Medical fields are seeing the most growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so part-time work will be easier to find in those industries.

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.