Asymmetrical Information - Megan McArdle

03.01.13

The Glass-Half-Full-Economy

Let's remember that it's not all bad

I was perusing the statistics on unemployment among workers over 55.  They're pretty depressing:

And yet, you know what? They're not nearly as depressing as you'd suspect.  What does every article tell you about over-55's who lose their jobs? They're totally hosed.  Probably never work again. Spending their retirement funds on basic living expenses.

But look at the chart above. What this data tells us is that this age group has a relatively low unemployment rate, and that the majority of them find a new job within a year.  2 million more people in this age group are working than were a year ago. Maybe the job is not as good as the one they left.  But they're not totally frozen out in the cold.

93% of the labor force between 55-64 has a job.  But of course, reporters don't write stories about the 95% of things that are basically going all right; they write about the beleaguered minority, precisely because they are out-of-the-ordinary. Of course, I do not want to in any way minimize the pain of those who are out of work for a long time.  I just want to remind readers that this is not some sort of inevitable fate that befalls every single 55 year old who loses a job . . . which is the impression that you could very easily get from news stories.  We should help the unemployed, but we should not fear that we'll all join them in short order.

So it helps to remember that things aren't as bad as you'd think, looking at the news.  Tell me some happy stories about the last five years: recovery from job loss, personal growth, relationships saved and new chapters started.  What's the good news?