Best Places to Launch a Second Career

College towns and centers of healthcare or state government tend to make great bets.

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Many seniors are going to be employed 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 55 and older was 6.9 percent in July, more than double what it was in December 2007.

That rate varies considerably by location, however. Baby boomers in towns with relatively vibrant economies will obviously have a much easier time finding work than those in cities where the going has been tough. To zero in on especially good places to launch a second career after stepping out of the first one, U.S. News applied its "Best Places to Retire" search tool powered by data from real estate information provider Onboard Informatics and looked for locales with below-average unemployment and a solid record of job creation over the past decade. We focused on spots with industries known for hiring older workers and considered the cost of living and such amenities as access to medical facilities and recreational opportunities.

[Use our online search tool to find your best place to retire.]

You may be able to improve your odds of landing a new job, for example, if you're willing to relocate to a university town such as State College, Pa., or Ames, Iowa. Thanks to their solid economic base, college towns are known to weather economic recessions better than most places. Many also have plentiful affordable housing. And as a bonus, universities typically provide people in the surrounding community access to mind-expanding speakers, performances, and a rich range of sporting events.

Alternatively, cities with a large number of government jobs (such as Lincoln, Neb.) or positions in the healthcare industry (Lubbock, Texas) have generally been able to avoid the worst of the economic decline. Check out these 10 places to launch your second career:

Ames, Iowa

Population: 60,015

Median home price: $149,750

Ames is a laid-back town that revolves around the happenings at Iowa State University and the schedules of its Cyclones sports teams. Unemployment was just 4.4 percent in 2009, with Iowa State employing around 9,000 people, pasta and sauce maker Barilla running its U.S. operations from a base here, and Post-it maker 3M maintaining a strong local presence as well. "The benefits that a university offers really can't be beat," says former journalist Jackie King, 57, who took a position as a program assistant in the university relations office at Iowa State two years ago. "A lot of my former jobs didn't have 401(k)s or a retirement program," she says. Biotech and agriculture round out the job market.

Beyond the financial, the perks of living and working in Ames include free access to Iowa State's ample library, theater, concerts, and other events. The city itself boasts 36 parks with miles of bike and walking trails. And there's that other lure of the Midwest: "Our first day [in town], a neighbor came over with cookies," says Craig McFarland, 55, a financial adviser who moved here with his family in 2006.

Harrisonburg, Virginia

Population: 44,869

Median home price: $188,756

The centerpiece of this rural town is James Madison University and its 17,000 undergrads. It's hard to miss the purple-and-gold-clad students around town. Eastern Mennonite University is here as well.

Agriculture and JMU fuel the economy. Healthcare provider Centra Healthcare Solutions is also one of the region's major employers. Getting to Washington will take a two-hour drive, but Charlottesville (home of the University of Virginia) is just an hour away by car.

It's the area that surrounds Harrisonburg that often clinches the deal. The Blue Ridge Mountains, Skyline Drive, and the Shenandoah Valley, along with its namesake river, are a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts from skiers and spelunkers to hikers and kayakers. And the 1.8 million-acre George Washington and Jefferson National Forests extend along virtually the entire western edge of Virginia; Crabtree Falls Trail features one of the most impressive vertical-drop waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. Toss in the wineries and apple orchards tucked away on winding back-country roads, and it's an appealingly bucolic picture. Meanwhile, the downtown area is showing signs of new life, with an active farmers' market and a handful of hip coffee shops and ethnic restaurants.