Classified ads The average timeolder workers spend looking for a job is 34.6weeks, compared to 23.4 weeks for youngerworkers. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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It's an oft overlooked economic tragedy: millions of older Americans are unemployed, underemployedor stuck in low-paying jobs that offer them little hope of retirement.

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A recent feature by the Wall Street Journal shed light on the plight ofseniors who find themselves toiling for low wages in what are supposed to be theirgolden years.

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The older that unemployed workers are, the harder it is for themto regain their previous job status. Those over 56 earn 27 percentless in a new job after being unemployed for more than a month,according to a study by David Wiczer, an economics professor atStony Brook University. In contrast, the typical worker under 30gets a 7 percent boost in pay when they land a job after a periodof unemployment.

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Related: Boomer dilemma: working longer, for lowerwages

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Older unemployed workers tend to have a harder time finding workaltogether. Thirty-one percent of the unemployed over 55 say theyhave spent at least 27 weeks seeking employment, compared to 24percent of those under 55.

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More striking, the average time older workers spend looking fora job is 34.6 weeks, or more than eight months. Among youngerworkers, the average time spent is 23.4 weeks, or under sixmonths.

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The employment challenges for older workers are made morestressful by the fact that many of those employees don't havesavings or pensions to count on. In 1992, a third of workers 55-64had defined-benefit pensions. Now only 17 percent do.

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In the midst of a tight labor market, however, some employerssee an opportunity in recruiting underappreciated olderworkers.

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In Michigan, the AARP partnered with the Southeast MichiganCommunity Alliance to hold a job fair for those over 50. Neogen, afood and animal safety company based in Lansing, Mich., hasconnected with future employees through the events. Julie Haak,Neogen's director of human resources, tells the Journal that thelabor pool has challenged the company to take a different approachto recruiting.

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