In the wild, it's often the aged who are first to go when resources get slim. The young take their place and the herd moves on.
The same goes with job layoffs, with older, better paid workers losing their jobs and the younger, less experienced and cheaper workers moving up. At least that's the conventional wisdom.
But Boeing, CVS and some other smart companies are letting seniority stand for something and are keeping older employees while still planning to cut jobs, according to a BusinessWeek story.
Boeing, for example, doesn't want a "brain drain" such as what happened to it in the late 1990s when voluntary buyouts left it short of experienced workers. Boeing plans to cut 10,000 jobs this year, and will choose who will be laid off and won't have voluntary buyouts.
The story cites figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the number of people 55 and older with jobs actually rose nearly 900,000 from the start of the recession in December 2007 through last year. People aged 25 to 54 lost nearly 2.9 million jobs during that same time.
Keeping experienced workers makes since, given the amount of money companies invest in training them, and the institutional knowledge they bring to work every day.
CVS Caremark is recruiting baby boomers and other older workers even as it is in the midst of cutting 800 administrative jobs after it bought rival Longs Drugs last year.
"We need their expertise," Stephen M. Wing, director of workforce initiatives for CVS, told BusinessWeek of the need for older workers. "When you're in your 50s and 60s, you're in your prime."
With more retirees considering going back to work to help make ends meet, now may be a good time to return to the job market, even if it's during a recession. The herd could always use some wisdom to keep it from running into trouble.
Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net