Older California workers on the market again

Age may have its advantages, but helping older workers find a job in this economy isn't one of them.

Cheryl Cervantes, 53, knows how tough it can be. The collapse of the real estate industry cost her job at a Fresno title company in July 2008. Seven months later, she still is looking.

"It's horrible," she said.

Cervantes worked 31 years for real estate and title companies. Like hundreds of thousands of others dislodged from good-paying jobs by the recession, she is trying to find a decent job. But older workers are at a disadvantage. Employers have a huge pool to choose from and many are young, cheap and hungry.

According to estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January more than 4.1 million unemployed people were 45 or older -- more than double the number in 2007 before the recession began.

"Evidence suggests that older job applicants don't go to the front of the employment line," said economist Richard W. Johnson, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. "In particular, we see when older workers get laid off, it takes them far longer to find a new job than younger workers."

Johnson, an expert in older workers and aging, said that even if an older worker finds a new job, it's likely to be at a much lower wage.

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