TARGET 8: KOMU 8 explores possible job-discrimination

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MISSOURI - On Sunday, Feb. 28, KOMU 8 News posted a Facebook question asking viewers about job-discrimination based on age, specifically age 50 and above.

The post included a statistic from the Missouri Economic and Resource Center saying as of December 2015, 4.4 percent of Missourians were unemployed. The post then asked viewers if they worked 10, 20 plus years for a company and, one day, just let go.

One commenter, Jerry Summers, said: "This is completely true. They look at your grey hair and immediately think, 'No, I will not hire this person.'"

Summers, 60, lives in Jefferson City. He works an odd job just to bring in income for himself, after working in the IT industry for 20 - 30 years. 

"People do need to work," Summers said. "So, when you go into interviews now for a job, they look at you and they see your grey hair. You can see it on their face that this guy is too old, we don't want him." 

Summers said older individuals really have a lot to offer.  

"It's not that we want a really high salary or high benefits, we just want to work," he said. 

Summers said he believes the Great Recession played a big part in people 45 and up getting let go from the work force.

"They want the younger generation," Summers said. "They can come in. They'll work for virtually nothing. Older individuals, we will take a salary cut. We don't have to have a high salaries that we used to. We basically just want to work and be able to pay our bills." 

Summers worked for about 20 years for one company. Summers declined to give the name of the company for safety reasons. He said the company decided to move to another location. Summers said he didn't want to go, so he retired from there. Afterwards, he managed to find jobs here and there with various other companies. However, Summers said it's nothing long-term nor stable. He said he has been laid off maybe twice and let go two or three times.

"You come in, you make a difference and, then, sometimes they'll just say, 'Oh, okay. Thank you very much,'" Summers said. "Why am I being let go?! Then, you come to find out later on that they hired some younger guy for a lot less money to replace him." 

When asked what it was like being let go, Summers said it was like the rug being pulled from underneath him. 

"You try to do a good job for a company, you try to make it to retirement and... you feel like your life's just been cut off," he said. Summers said he was about 55 when he was first let go. 

Summers and his wife are selling their house in Jefferson City at 2109 Julie Lane. They are still looking for people to buy it. Summers plan to move to North Carolina with his wife to find better work. 

When asked what he could tell people in Missouri 45 and up who are going through the same thing as he is, Summers had these simple words of advice. 

"Save your money," Summers said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 44,000 Missourians between the ages of 45-64 were unemployed in 2015, 28,000 of them being 45-54 and 16,000 of them being 55-64. Compared to Missourians between the ages of 35-44, 23,000 were unemployed.

Altogether, 156,000 Missourians are unemployed.

On Monday, March 7, the Missouri Department of Labor gave KOMU 8 News data focusing on unemployment for Missourians and which age groups have claimed for unemployment benefits. 

In January 2000, the year of the nation's first budget surplus, 15,098 individuals between the ages of 35-44 claimed unemployement benefits. The 35-44 age group was the largest demographic at the time, while 13,564 citizens between the ages of 45-59 claimed unemployment benefits. 

In January 2005, halfway through the decade, 19,624 Missourians between the ages of 35-44 claimed unemployment benefits. Once again, this was the largest demographic at the time, while 18,498 individuals between 45-54 claimed unemployment benefits, as did 5,684 between the ages of 55-59. 

In January 2009, months following the nation's stock market crash and the Great Recession, 25,807 Missourians between 35-44 claimed unemployement benefits. However, between the ages of 45-59, 38,632 Missourians claimed unemployemeny benefits, 28,948 of them being 45-54 and 9,648 of them being 55-59. The 45-54 age group was the largest at the time. 

In January 2013, the same month as President Obama's inauguration for his second term, 22,999 individuals between 45-59 claimed unemployement benefits, 16,250 of them being 45-54 and 6,749 of them being 55-59. Once again, the 45-54 age group had the largest number at the time. 14,485 Missouri citizens between 35-44 claimed unemployement benefits. 

By December 2015, numbers dropped significantly compared to 2013. Between the ages of 45-59, 10,512 Missourians claimed unemployment benefits, 7,202 of them being 45-54 and 3,310 of them being 55-59. As for Missourians between 35-44, 6,888 of them claimed unemployement benefits. 

So, from January 2000 to December 2015, Missouri has gone from 35-44 being the dominant unemployment age group to 45-54. 

Complete information for 2016 unemployment benefits won't be available until after the year is over.

Following this story, the investigation doesn't stop here. We'd like to here from you.

If you are someone who's 45, 50 and above and still trying hard to find full-time work, you can send an email to KOMU 8 News.