It’s difficult, but not impossible for people over age 50 to find new jobs. The unemployment rate for those age 55 and older rose to 5.9 percent in January 2009, but layoffs and buyouts disproportionately fell upon older workers in the construction, manufacturing, and hospitality industries. Other job sectors are doing at least some hiring. U.S. News asked a handful of career experts which fields need experienced workers now. They all agreed that while you should always seek out a job that's best suited to your abilities, these three industries are your best bet for finding work in the near term:
Health Care. As the U.S. population ages, there's going to be increasing demand for health care and services. “Home health care is still a vibrant sector where people are getting hired to provide care,” says Cynthia Metzler, president and chief executive of Experience Works, a nonprofit that helps older people retrain for new jobs. The organization has seen a 70 percent increase in job seekers in the past year. “There’s also a lot of administrative jobs and customer-service and technician types of jobs." Personal and home-care aid jobs will grow 50.7 percent over the next 10 years and demand for registered nurses will grow 23.4 percent, according to calculations by Richard Johnson, a principal research associate at the Urban Institute. And only 3.5 percent of workers over age 55 in the health services field are currently unemployed, according to Urban Institute calculations (that number is up from 2.5 percent in January 2007.) Other health occupations that will likely see an increase in demand include pharmacists and social workers.
Education. A sluggish economy presents a great opportunity to head to the nearest college and pick up a teaching credential. “Math and science teachers and special education teachers are going to be in considerable demand,” says Marc Freedman, chief executive offers and founder of Civic Ventures, and author of Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life: “This is a good window for upgrading skills and going back to school and doing internships and volunteering--doing things that will make finding a job easier when the market gets more promising.” Demand for post-secondary teachers will increase by 22.8 percent over the next 10 years, according to the Urban Institute. And only 2.4 percent of education workers age 55 and up are currently unemployed. What’s more, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in February, will provide $2 billion to Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which the White House estimates will create at least 15,000 new jobs. But before you leap, try out this career field by tutoring or volunteering in a classroom.
Government. It’s hard to beat the generous health and retirement benefits that government jobs offer, even if the pay is often lower than in the private sector. And now that federal stimulus funds are making their way to state and local governments to help ease budget crunches, there may be more government jobs to go around. “We are seeing a lot of government positions at the local level as well as the federal level for things that they are anticipating they are going to get stimulus money for,” says Rosemary Haefner, senior career adviser for job search website CareerBuilder. “They are making those hires now.” Look for positions posted on state and city government websites, but also consider the federal government. Deborah Russell, the director of workforce issues at AARP, recommends that workers age 50 and older consider applying for federal government jobs at the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance, and the Peace Corps. These three federal agencies are on AARP’s National Employer Team that consists of companies and agencies with an interest in hiring experienced older workers. If you’re willing to relocate, check out these 10 great cities for job-seeking retirees.