By: Dan Miller


Everyone knows older workers are not wanted – Right? Of course not. That’s just one of those myths that gets a lot of lip service. With the beginning of Baby Boomer retirements, companies recognize they will need to aggressively recruit and retain older workers.

In a reversal of the late 1990s, young workers are being jettisoned right and left as companies make more room for older people many previously thought of as corporate has-beens. As opportunities for younger workers become more scarce, their elders are staying on or returning to work, often desperate to rebuild diminished retirement savings.

OUTSOURCED OUT. Why are young and mid-career workers bearing the brunt of the cutbacks? One reason is that many got bigger raises than old-timers during the boom, so they're no longer much cheaper to employ. At the same time, they often lack the deep institutional knowledge and personal ties with clients and customers that are especially valuable in tough times. Says Michael Recca, president of Sky Capital LLC, a startup brokerage firm: "Everybody in this market prefers a veteran."

"ATTRACTIVE AGAIN." Only workers nearing retirement age are faring well: A greater percentage of those over 55 are working today than a year ago. In part, that's because older workers are prized for their experience and stability: "It's not at all surprising that we're seeing people who have come from an Old Economy set of values becoming more attractive again now," says Barry Honig, president of New Jersey-based executive-search firm Honig International.

Companies such as AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines, are trying to retain older workers as they cut jobs because of the brain drain they suffered in the past from offering early-retirement incentives. They also want to avoid the high upfront costs of employee buyouts.



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