As retirement accounts continue to hemorrhage money, many baby boomers are coming to the realization that they'll need to continue working into their traditional retirement years. In fact, a whopping 70 percent of Americans ages 45 to 74 plan to work in retirement—both for enjoyment and because they need the income, according to a recent AARP survey.
But jobs aren't easy to come by right now, especially for workers who are middle age or older. In December alone, U.S. employers shed 524,000 jobs. According to a separate AARP survey, 31 percent of employed adults age 45 and older think it's likely that their job will be eliminated in 2009. It will be challenging but not impossible for these adults to find a new job. "Just because the overall numbers are down, that doesn't mean no one's hiring," says Steven Greenberg, founder and chief executive of Jobs4Point0.com, a job search website for those age 40 and older. "There are jobs to be had, and they are looking for people with experience."
It helps if you pick a retirement spot where the economy is strong, the cost of living is reasonable, and employers are hiring. "Industries that were great a year and a half or two ago are now struggling," says Bob Skladany, vice president of research for RetirementJobs.com. "The recessionproof industries are the ones where people find jobs when times are tough: healthcare, higher education, government, retail, transportation, and utilities or energy."
U.S. News recently consulted RetirementJobs.com to determine the best cities for retirement-age job seekers. The analysis took into account employment growth, the unemployment rate, housing costs, the cost of living, and proximity to high-quality healthcare. Other factors: the prevalence of job opportunities in industries that tend to welcome older workers, such as healthcare, higher education, government, and service-industry jobs.
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Cities with well-diversified economies are thriving despite the recession. More than 145 companies are headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., including well-known names like Expedia, T-Mobile, Microsoft, and drugstore.com. The area, which includes nearby cities Seattle and Tacoma, added 19,900 jobs in the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Oklahoma City, Okla., earned bragging rights in November 2008 when it tied with Washington, D.C., as the city with the lowest jobless rate in the country. But the cost of living is far lower in Oklahoma than in D.C., making it a better spot for retirees looking to cut expenses. Although it was founded as an oil town, Oklahoma City today boasts an economy that also includes information technology, healthcare services, and the restaurant chain Sonic.
Many of the best places to find enjoyable work in retirement are college towns like Lubbock, Texas, and Charlottesville, Va., both of which have major universities and hospitals that provide plenty of jobs. At Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., 43 percent of employees are age 50 or older. The university also offers valuable perks that may appeal to older workers, such as health screenings on campus, paid time off for caregiving responsibilities, and compressed workweeks that allow for more time to explore Ithaca's famous gorges and waterfalls and the Finger Lakes. Penn State University in State College, Pa., even has a retirement community on campus. Residents can take free courses, pick up priority football and basketball tickets, and visit an on-site ice creamery. And if you can't find a job with the university, there are plenty of positions in town that cater to the university's more than 40,000 students.
The healthcare industry has proved itself resilient in this economic environment. Almost half of the 30 fastest-growing occupations named by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are concentrated within health services, including home health aides, medical assistants, and pharmacy technicians. More than 5,000 people are employed at the nonprofit Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., the state's largest hospital. In Rochester, Minn., the Mayo Clinic employs more than 28,000 workers. Jobs within this industry extend far beyond the hospital. For example, a healthcare job could include selling software solutions to clinics, says Mark Anderson, president of ExecuNet, a networking firm. Rochester also has an extensive service industry—including lodging and restaurants—that caters to about 1.5 million people a year, many of whom are visiting the Mayo Clinic.