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Job Hunting for Older Americans

Workers, retirees identify work uncertainty as most pressing financial issue

What are Americans most worried about, saving for retirement, or having a secure job? According to a recent survey by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, workers and retirees alike identify job uncertainty as the most pressing financial issue facing most Americans today. The survey canvassed 251 retirees and 1,003 workers, ages 25 and older, in January.

Kerry Hannon where the jobs are 50 recession older workers americans job security classified ads donut coffee retirement (Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

More than saving for retirement, job security is a key financial issue for older workers, according to survey.

There are many reasons for the respondents' concern. Job cuts in March were an eye-popping 30 percent higher than a year earlier, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a job placement company. Employers have announced 145,041 job cuts through the first three months of 2013, according to the group's recent report.

The length of periods of unemployment between jobs is also on the rise. In April, the average unemployed time crept up for older workers to 50.2 weeks, from 49.2 weeks the month before. For those under 55, the average duration of unemployment rose to 36.9 weeks in April, from 35.7 weeks in March.

But there are bright spots in the job market, according to Sara Rix, senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute. For starters, the unemployment rate for the 55-plus workforce remained at 5.5 percent in March and April, down from 6.2 percent in March 2012.

Moreover, some industries and occupations — especially in retail, health care and information technology — report high numbers of job vacancies. Not surprisingly, given our aging population and longer life expectancies, the health care industry leads the list of job creators. In fact, for the period 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social assistance programs are projected to generate about 28 percent of all new jobs in the U.S. economy.

Professional and business services are also expected to show significant growth — by as much as 29 percent — adding about 2.1 million new jobs by 2020. Employment in computer systems design and related services is expected to jump by 47 percent, spurred by growing demand for computer network and mobile technologies. Management, scientific and technical consulting services are anticipated to increase by a whopping 58 percent.

Another job field getting up a head of steam is the nonprofit arena. Forty-four percent of nonprofit groups plan to hire more workers this year, up from one-third just two years ago, according to a new survey of more than 580 organizations by Nonprofit HR Solutions, a human resources consulting firm, and the Improve Group.

Health-related nonprofits, followed by environmental and animal welfare groups, were most likely to report plans to hire, according to the report. About a third of nonprofits that intend to hire say they were most likely to add workers to provide services, run programs and raise money.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills.