The Outlook for Senior Jobs in 2012

A closer look at the jobs numbers show which occupations have lower jobless rates for older employees.


For the seven million experienced people age 65 and older who are still in the labor force, jobless rates have consistently been lower than for all workers. As 2011 ended, the overall unemployment rate of 8.5 percent compares with a rate of 6.2 percent for people age 55 and older.

[See 10 Workplace Myths Debunked.]

That's scant comfort, of course, if you're having trouble finding a job, or finding a job that pays you what you're worth. What's become painfully clear in this slow recovery is that keeping a job is vital and job-hopping is a thing of the past for most people.

To help provide a clearer picture of where the jobs are for older employees by occupation, U.S. News gathered detailed information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is public information but the BLS doesn't routinely publish it, and it differs a bit from what you're used to seeing. Normal employment figures include people with no prior work experience and those who just left military duty to look for work. The table below includes only people with prior work experience. That makes sense in looking at the job outlook for older employees because virtually all of us have held jobs in the past.

Use the table below by finding the general category that includes your skill sets. For all of last year, you'll see the number of men and women age 65 and older in each category and their unemployment rates. From this information, you can identify which occupations have low unemployment rates and spot where older employees have fared best and worst.

[See Is an Extended Senior Career in Your Future?]

Older employees of both sexes had unemployment rates averaging 6.5 percent last year. The rate for experienced workers of all ages was 8.2 percent. Lower jobless rates for older employees were the case across many occupations, and in some occupations, the edge for older employees was pronounced.

The Urban Institute, a nonprofit Washington, D.C., think tank, tracks employment trends among older workers. It finds that jobless rates are much lower for seniors who graduated from college than for other employees. Jobless rates among people with some high school, high school diplomas, and some college did not vary greatly and ranged from 6 to 8 percent, compared with less than 4 percent for college graduates.

There were also some sharp unemployment differences in the same job categories among men and women age 65 and older. For example, in the management and professional sector, it was much easier for men than women to find jobs in community and social services, legal, and healthcare practitioner and technical positions. Women fared better in business and financial operations and arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media. In service occupations, women fared better in healthcare support, protective service, and personal care and service jobs.

Here's a detailed look at the employment picture for older workers:

[See When Your Boss is Younger than Your Child.]

Where the Jobs Are for Older Workers
Work Force and Jobless Rates for 65+ Men and Women
2011 averages (000s omitted)
  65+ Men 65+ Women
  Work Force Jobless Rate (%) Work Force Jobless Rate (%)
Total 3,988 6.5 3,119 6.5
Management, professional, and related        
Management 754 4.6 313 4.3
Business and financial operations 210 6.7 121 5.7
Computer and mathematical 57 7.5 22 8.2
Architecture and engineering 106 9.8 8 15.5
Life, physical, and social science 35 3.1 30 4.8
Community and social services 75 1.9 80 8.4
Legal 97 0.7 37 6.6
Education, training, and library 170 4.3 299 5.0
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media 91 7.0 80 5.5
Healthcare practitioner and technical 141 1.2 189 5.3
Healthcare support 12 12.3 112 7.2
Protective service 139 8.6 17 3.6
Food preparation and serving related 72 5.3 145 8.1
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance 211 6.6 128 6.6
Personal care and service 79 6.3 228 4.9
Sales and office        
Sales and related 527 4.9 419 6.5
Office and administrative support 183 8.8 723 7.6
Natural resources, construction, and maintenance        
Farming, fishing, and forestry 41 6.5 11 10.9
Construction and extraction 185 15.7 6 2.5
Installation, maintenance, and repair 165 6.3 6 10.8
Production, transportation, and material moving        
Production 195 10.5 97 11.7
Transportation and material moving 444 7.7 50 7.1
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor

Twitter: @PhilMoeller