Teens, Older Workers Often Compete For Same Job For the first time since 1948, there are more people older than 65 in the workforce than teenagers. Beaten down retirement portfolios and increased life expectancies mean more older people are working or looking for jobs. Our Planet Money team looks at what older workers and teens bring to the workplace.
NPR logo

Teens, Older Workers Often Compete For Same Job

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128556751/128556817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Teens, Older Workers Often Compete For Same Job

Teens, Older Workers Often Compete For Same Job

Teens, Older Workers Often Compete For Same Job

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128556751/128556817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

For the first time since 1948, there are more people older than 65 in the workforce than teenagers. Beaten down retirement portfolios and increased life expectancies mean more older people are working or looking for jobs. Our Planet Money team looks at what older workers and teens bring to the workplace.

NPR: Chana Joffe-Walt and Robert Smith with our Planet Money team, take a look at what that means.

CHANA JOFFE: We'd like to begin this story with an announcement: we here at Planet Money, we're hiring. Robert?

ROBERT SMITH: Yes. The formal job title is Human Manifestation of an Economic Trend. We have two finalists for the job. We've got Alice Cherry, a 62-year-old teacher in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

ALICE TERRY: I don't think I'm going to ever leave the job world. I honestly don't think so. I don't really have an investment portfolio to fall back on. And I enjoy my job.

JOFFE: And Max Marion Spencer(ph), her 18-year-old grandson with no job, although he's applied for them all.

MAX MARION SPENCER: Quiznos, Wendy's, McDonald's, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Dollar General.

JOFFE: All turned you down?

MARION SPENCER: Yeah, I would assume so, at this point.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

JOFFE: And Max noticed something at those interviews: a few older workers who didn't seem to be working that hard.

MARION SPENCER: I mean I'm not going to judge them and say that they shouldn't have those jobs, and stuff like that. But...

SMITH: But you did kind of want to say that you can do it better.

MARION SPENCER: Without a doubt, I definitely could do it better.

SMITH: Now, if this is starting to sound like one of those battle of the generation stories, it is more complex than that. Some of this is just demographics - the Baby Boomers grew up and are living these long, healthy, active lives.

JOFFE: Normally that doesn't create too many conflicts because the economy is growing, entry-level jobs are being added.

SMITH: So if there's only one job available, who's it going to be: grandmother or grandson?

TERRY: My people skills are pretty good. What else? I've got wisdom to bring to the table, one would hope.

SMITH: So Max, you're facing some tough competition here. What do you bring to the table that perhaps your grandmother doesn't?

MARION SPENCER: You can give me a bad job and I'll still probably have to keep it because I can't find any other jobs.

SMITH: So desperation.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARION SPENCER: Yup, that's definitely one. I mean I know how to use the computer, I guess.

TERRY: You bring a future with you. If you have a job that you really like, you can commit to it, you know, endlessly.

SMITH: Aww, this decision is going to be tough. I think we need an outside expert.

IAN SHEPHERDSON: Here I am.

SMITH: Well, you know, a strong English accent is preferred for this job.

SHEPHERDSON: Right. Well, that's good 'cause I've got one of those.

JOFFE: This is Ian Shepherdson with High Frequency Economics. And he says for Max this is not just about a job at McDonald's this summer or next summer. Grandma's right. This really is about his future.

SHEPHERDSON: So, you know, through no fault of their own, the people who are graduating now are going to find themselves struggling for a very long time.

SMITH: Alice, if it ever came to the point where you are directly competing with your grandson for a job, would you step aside?

TERRY: Yeah, of course I would. Yeah. No contest.

JOFFE: Max, would you step aside?

MARION SPENCER: I mean...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARION SPENCER: I think it really depends on the job. But yeah, I probably would, like if she really needed it. 'Cause I mean I have plenty of opportunities and stuff like that ahead.

SMITH: The good news is that you both got the job...

TERRY: Yay...

SMITH: ...as the Planet Money indicator.

MARION SPENCER: Awesome.

SMITH: The bad news is that it only lasts a few more seconds, the job.

TERRY: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SMITH: So we need you to end this story for us.

MARION SPENCER: All right.

TERRY: This might be tough. Closure is hard for us.

MARION SPENCER: For NPR News, I'm Max Spencer.

TERRY: And I'm Alice Terry.

JOFFE: And I'm Chana Joffe-Walt.

SMITH: And I'm Robert Smith.

MARION SPENCER: NPR News, Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.