10 Best Places for Older Employees

Here’s a look at the nation’s friendliest cities for an older work force.

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Richmond, Va skyline
Continuing to work past the traditional retirement age of 65 has ceased to be unusual and, in some circles, is now more the norm. In his new book, The Big Shift, Marc Freedman talks about how longevity gains have enabled us to create a new age between middle age and old age.

For many of us, this new period in our 60s and 70s will be spent working, either by choice or necessity. Freedman, the founder of Civic Ventures who has championed encore careers, envisions a blossoming of baby boomer social consciousness, with a flood of nonprofit ventures providing us a way to give back.

[See 10 Places to Launch a Second Career in Retirement.]

The recession, of course, has delayed retirements for millions of older employees. Their continued participation in the labor force has been rising for years but has jumped a few more notches since the dual collapses of investment and real estate markets in 2007 and 2008. A labor force study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects further increases ahead.

Between 2007 and 2018, the CBO forecast in a report last month, the labor force participation rates of men 65 and older will rise from 21 percent to 25 percent. For women 65 and older, the increase will be from 13 percent to 17 percent. And these rates include everyone over 65. The rates are much higher for those in their upper 60s.

If anything, recent estimates may turn out to be too low. Efforts to trim budget deficits at all levels of government are almost certain to bring a combination of reduced government services and higher taxes and fees. The upshot is that consumers of all ages will be on the hook for higher shares of their own support needs. Many forecasters also believe the nation's extraordinarily long run of ultra-low rates of inflation will be ending. And rising prices, of course, are particularly hard on people living on fixed incomes.

If all roads lead to extended working lives for older Americans, do these roads lead to any particular places? Are there cities in the United States that are likely to be particularly friendly to older work forces? To find out, U.S. News asked the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS provided us with detailed information on age-related employment trends in America's metropolitan areas. The most current averages for age-related employment are for the year 2009, which means they reflect the earlier stages of the recovery. But by looking at the working patterns of people over age 65 from 2005 through 2009, we got a solid idea of those cities with a sustained record of high labor participation rates and low unemployment for older employees.

[See Best Places for Military Retirees.]

Next, the BLS provided us with details on recent overall employment and unemployment trends for metro areas, with numbers including those for February 2011 that were released just last week. By looking at these more recent overall performance trends, we were able to produce a list of the nation's most attractive cities for employment opportunities for older people.

The top 10 areas were all among the nation's top markets for employment of people aged 65 and up. These areas had average labor force participation rates ranging from roughly 20 to 23 percent—far above the national average. Our best cities also sported relatively low unemployment rates for older workers in 2009 and currently attractive unemployment rates for all workers, as measured by last month's metro jobless report. In addition, they did not suffer huge jumps in overall employment between 2005 and this year, indicating their job markets have the kind of longer-term stability that people prefer.

The areas that fared the best:

Dallas, Texas. Dallas topped the list with a nearly 23 percent five-year average labor force participation rate among its residents age 65 and older. The city's 2009 unemployment rate for seniors was, at 7.6 percent, higher than average, but its current jobless rate for all workers is 8.1 percent. That's less than 3 percentage points higher than in 2005—a very small swing.

Salt Lake City, Utah. Salt Lake's 2009 labor force participation among older workers was an impressive 22.5 percent, and the unemployment rate for this group was 5.3 percent. The area's current jobless rate is only 7.6 percent, up 2.9 percentage points from 2005.

Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is a stand-out place for older employees. Among residents age 65 and older, 22.1 percent were in the labor force, and their 2009 unemployment rate was only 2.8 percent. Current overall employment is 8.2 percent, compared with an average of 5.2 percent in 2005.

[See 10 Bargain Retirement Spots.]

Washington, D.C. Low unemployment and a large senior work force mark labor markets in and near the nation's capital. The five-year labor force participation rate was 21.7 percent, and the 2009 average unemployment rate among older workers was 4.8 percent. The unemployment rate among all area workers last month was only 5.9 percent, compared with 3.4 percent in 2005.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. These nearby Connecticut cities had labor force participation rates among older residents of 21.5 percent, and a 2009 senior jobless rate of 6.2 percent. Current unemployment is relatively high for all employees at 9 percent, up from 4.5 percent in 2005.

Newark-Union, N.J. The senior labor force participation rate in this market was 21.3 percent, and unemployment was 7.7 percent among older workers in 2009. Overall unemployment in the broader New York-New Jersey metro areas is now 8.9 percent for all employees, up from 4.9 percent in 2005.

Nashville, Tenn. Average labor force participation rates among residents age 65 and older was 20.9 percent in 2009, and their unemployment rate was 6.9 percent. The current overall Nashville metro unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, versus 4.5 percent in 2005.

Bethesda-Frederick-Rockville, Md. These Maryland commuting suburbs employ lots of older employees. Their labor force participation rate was 20.5 percent in 2009, and the unemployment rate among older employees was 4.8 percent.

Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y. These Long Island communities had labor-force participation rates of 20.3 percent for employees age 65 and older, and a senior jobless rate of only 3.9 percent in 2009.

Richmond, Va. Richmond's 65-plus workforce had an unemployment rate averaging only 2.4 percent in 2009, when 19.9 percent of people age 65 and older were in the labor force. Currently, the area's overall unemployment rate is 7.4 percent—double its level in 2005.

Twitter: @PhilMoeller