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Unemployment Rate Doubles For Older Women

Nursing student Barbara Bosch at CBD vocational college in California where she is studying to become a licensed vocational nurse. Bosch, who is 49, has been unemployed since July 2008. (NPR)

This recession has been called the "mancession" by some because men have suffered the largest number of job losses. But it hasn't been easy for women either — especially those of the baby-boom generation.

The Labor Department says the number of women ages 45 to 64 who are long-term unemployed — out of work for more than six months — has more than doubled in the past year. The number is now 900,000, and it is growing.

This Time Is Different

In July 2008, Barbara Bosch, who is 49, was laid off from her job as a bookkeeper at a small CPA firm. At the time, she wasn't too worried because she'd never really been without a job. But within a month she knew this time was different. Every day she searched the Internet from CareerBuilder to Craigslist. The rest of her week she'd spend going to interviews set up by temp agencies.

Often during these interviews, Bosch would be told that the people she would be working with were much younger, she says. "And I'm looking at them thinking, well, I don't really look that old — at all. And I think I fit in with no problem." But she still wondered if that was why she wasn't getting any call backs.

I need to live in order to have a roof over my head. I have to financially be able to take of myself. I don’t have anybody else to fall on.
Barbara Bosch, 49, who hasn't worked since she was laid off in July 2008

So three months ago Bosch made a decision. When she heard the medical field was still hiring, Bosch enrolled in a local college to get certified as a licensed vocational nurse. She says it hasn't been easy being a student again, but she felt it was her only option.

"I need to live in order to have a roof over my head," Bosch says. "I have to financially be able to take of myself. I don't have anybody else to fall on."

To help her cover the rent for her three-bedroom condo in West Los Angeles, her son moved into the first bedroom down the hall. And she's just rented out the second bedroom. She says it's been awhile since she's had roommates, but she can deal with losing her privacy if it means keeping the home she's lived in for seven years.

'I Don't Know What I Am Going To Do'

Across town Denise Dubois is sitting at a computer perusing the source of some of her income — the personal belongings she's sold on eBay.

"I've sold shoes," she says. "I've sold my whole set of Danish teak salad bowls."

Dubois describes herself as a young and hip 56 — someone with a film degree who has worked in marketing, development and real estate for most of her life. She's been without a job for 13 months.

"And after sending out 1,000 resumes, I've gotten two phone calls," she says. And she was going to go crazy if she had to write another cover letter.

At an L.A. County job center run by Jewish Vocational Services, the chairs are full. Director Angie Cooper says they're seeing women of all ages and educational levels — especially one group.

"They're women who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s," Cooper says. "They're telling us they can't do what they did before. And that they feel there is ageism out there. They feel that their skills are outdated."

Back in the classroom, nursing student Bosch takes a seat in the first row. School has now become her full-time job, and she worries that in three months her unemployment benefits will run out.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," says Bosch, who won't receive her nursing license until March of next year. "I really don't."

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In this country, many people are still struggling to find a job, or just stay afloat without regular income. Numerically speaking, the recession has hit more men than women; that is, more men have lost jobs. But it hasnt been easy for women, either. According to the Labor Department, just over the last year, the number of women between the of ages 45 and 64 who are long-term unemployed -meaning out of work for more than six months - has more than doubled.

Reporter Gloria Hillard met two baby-boomer women who've been searching for work for more than a year.

GLORIA HILLARD: Barbara Bosch is showing me around her three-bedroom condo in West Los Angeles. She apologizes for the extra clutter; a mattress and box spring lean against the wall.

Ms. BARBARA BOSCH: So that's kind of sitting around right now.

HILLARD: To help her cover the rent, her son moved into the first bedroom down the hall, and she's just rented out a second bedroom. The petite 49-year-old wears her dark brown hair in a ponytail. She says it's been awhile since she's had roommates.

Ms. BOSCH: Oh, boy. Mm, I can't even think. I think it was like, in the '80s?

HILLARD: She says she can deal with losing her privacy if it means keeping the home she's lived in for seven years.

Ms. BOSCH: That would be the last thing that I would've wanted to do, is have to move, too - you know, with everything else that's going on.

HILLARD: The everything she refers to began in July 2008, when she was laid off from her job as a bookkeeper at a small CPA firm. At the time, she wasn't too worried. After all, she'd never really been without a job. But within a month, she knew this time was different. Every day, she searched the Internet - from CareerBuilder to Craigslist. The rest of her week, she'd spend going to interviews set up by temp agencies.

Ms. BOSCH: And then they're telling me that the group of people that I'll be working with are much younger. And I'm looking at them thinking, well, I don't really look that old, you know, at all. And I think I'd fit in with no problem. And maybe that's one of the reasons why I haven't been getting any callbacks. I dont know.

HILLARD: No callbacks, so three months ago Bosch made a decision. She heard the medical field was still hiring.

Unidentified Woman: OK. Well, let's get started because weve got a lot to cover.

HILLARD: Bosch is now attending college to get certified as a licensed vocational nurse. She says it hasn't been easy being a student again, but she felt it was her only option.

Ms. BOSCH: I need to live, you know? In order to have a roof over my head, I've got to financially be able to take of myself. You know, I don't have anybody else to fall on.

(Soundbite of typing)

HILLARD: Across town, Denise Dubois is sitting at a computer, showing me the source of some of her income: the personal belongings she's sold on eBay.

Ms. DENISE DUBOIS: I've sold shoes. I've sold my whole set of Danish teak salad bowls.

HILLARD: She describes herself as a young and hip 56 - someone with a film degree who has worked in marketing, development and real estate for most of her life. She's been without a job...

Ms. DUBOIS: It's been 13 months now. And after sending out a thousand resumes and I've gotten only two phone calls. I thought I was, quote, going to go mad if I wrote another cover letter.

HILLARD: At an L.A. County job center, the chairs are full. Jewish Vocational Services runs this center. Director Angie Cooper says they're seeing women of all ages and educational levels, especially one group.

Ms. ANGIE COOPER (Director, Jewish Vocational Services): They're women who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s. They're telling us that they can't do what they did before, and that they feel there's ageism out there. They feel that their skills are outdated.

Unidentified Woman: OK, who's next to present?

HILLARD: Back in the classroom, nursing student Barbara Bosch takes a seat in the first row. School has now become her full-time job, and she worries that in three months, her unemployment benefits will run out.

Ms. BOSCH: I don't know what I'm going to do. I really don't.

HILLARD: She won't graduate and receive her nursing license until March of next year.

For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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