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Do Older Workers Keep Younger Ones From Jobs? [AUDIO]

There’s an old notion that older job holders prevent younger job seekers from moving around in the labor force, but an expert here in New Jersey says that theory does not hold water.

Ned Frisk, Getty Images

The theory has been around for a long time — several hundred years, in fact. But economic analyst Patrick O’Keefe of CohnReznick suggests that a dynamic economy promotes an evolution in growth.

“Because the labor force is dynamic,” O’Keefe said, “a young worker with the right skills, being in the right place at the right time, is not competing with an older worker head-to-head.”

This arrangement incorporates new and different work with new and different job skills previously unseen.

“The great thing about a market economy is that it adjusts constantly to demand,” O’Keefe said. “And what we have to do is adjust our skills, and adjust where we are looking for jobs.”

One example is that when more women entered the workforce, the economy and the scope of job demands grew wider. The theory would hold up if there were a fixed number of jobs available. But in a growing economy, that is not the case.

“To say there’s going to be head-to-head competition would then say that that competition is skewed toward the younger applicants rather than the older applicants,” O’Keefe said. “The marketplace is constantly churning.”

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