Many seniors are going to continue to work past age 65, both for the money and because they enjoy working. But jobs aren't exactly easy to come by right now. The unemployment rate for those age 55 and older was 7.1 percent in February, up nearly 122 percent since December 2007.
However, the unemployment rate varies considerably by location. Baby boomers in towns with relatively vibrant economies will have a much easier time finding work than those in cities with fewer job opportunities. Oklahoma City, Okla., for example, has the distinction of posting the lowest unemployment rate of any metro area in the country. And the Richland, Wash., region, which includes the nearby cities of Kennewick and Pasco, added 3,300 jobs to the local economy over the past year—more than any other area of the country. You may be able to improve your odds of landing a new job if you're willing to relocate to a city with more than enough job opportunities to go around.
To find a few great places to launch a second career in retirement, U.S. News looked for locales with below-average unemployment and a solid record of new job creation over the past decade. Using the Best Places to Retire search tool powered by data from OnBoard, we singled out places with industries known for hiring older workers, including government, higher education, and healthcare. We also took into consideration the presence of a reasonable cost of living and amenities that seniors typically need and desire in a retirement locale: access to healthcare facilities and plenty of outdoor and recreational opportunities, for instance.
College towns, such as State College, Pa., and Harrisonburg, Va., are generally great places for baby boomers to find work. Former journalist Jackie King, 57, took a position as a program assistant in the university relations office at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, two years ago. "A lot of my former jobs didn't have 401(k)'s or a retirement program," she says. "I need to keep working, and the benefits that a university offers really can't be beat." Many college and university towns also have plenty of affordable housing and give the surrounding community access to world-class speakers, musical performances, and sporting events. King enjoys having free access to Iowa State's ample library. Penn State University in State College, Pa., even has a retirement community on campus that gives residents access to free college classes and priority tickets to football and basketball games.
[Use our online tool to Find Your Best Place to Retire.]
Cities with a large number of government jobs have generally been better able to avoid much of the economic decline the rest of the country has faced. State and local government jobs are typically plentiful in state capitals such as Lincoln, Neb., and Madison, Wis. The economy of Manhattan, Kan., has also been enhanced by the presence of a strong public sector including Kansas State University and nearby Fort Riley. The Department of Homeland Security recently selected Manhattan as the site for a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which is expected to add 450 permanent jobs to the local economy. John Armbrust, 63, a retired colonel who served 25 years in the military, transitioned his experiences into a second career in Manhattan's prolific public sector. "Government jobs have made the area a little bit less vulnerable than many other places," says Armbrust, who was appointed executive director of the Governor's Military Council in 2004.
Seniors may also want to consider looking for work in locales with major healthcare facilities. The giant Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for example, employs 32,348 people directly, and other sectors of the local economy are also stimulated when patients come to the area with their family members for medical treatment. Approximately 3.5 million job opportunities appropriate for older workers with healthcare and social assistance backgrounds are expected to be created between now and 2018, according to a recent Northeastern University analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data. Registered nurses, home health aides, and medical assistants are expected to be among the fastest-growing jobs.
[Check out these 30 Fast-Growing Careers for Older Workers.]
Former banker Cody Buck, 58, and his wife, Starr Buck, 53, a former small-business owner, had no problem landing jobs as registered nurses in Lubbock, Texas, when they both graduated from nursing school in December 2009. Covenant Health System, the second-largest employer in Lubbock after Texas Tech University, recruited the couple before they even graduated. "I think there's always going to be a job open for a good nurse," says Buck, who now works three 12-hour shifts a week. He makes less money than he did as a banker but enjoys the work more. "I am moving to a stage in life where I am looking for some type of reward other than just financial," he says. "I think as people age, everybody has some kind of additional need to make some kind of contribution, some kind of personal fulfillment." When you can combine a paycheck and a calling, delaying retirement doesn't sound so bad.
Check out these 10 great places to launch a second career in retirement: