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7 Occupations That Are Bouncing Back This Summer

Unemployment rate for older workers has dropped steadily this season

A construction worker holding a wooden beam

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En español | The job market took a large step forward in July with 943,000 people getting hired for new jobs. That's promising news for older workers, with the unemployment rate for people age 55 and older dropping to 4.4 percent, down from 4.9 percent in June. The nation's overall unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in July from 5.9 percent one month earlier, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

"Our labor force is healing, our economy is reopening and people are getting back to work, but we still have a way to go,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Economic recovery depends on our commitment to public health, so I urge every eligible person to get vaccinated against COVID-19 who has not done so already.”

Whether that economic progress can be maintained — as the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads — could affect the job prospects of older workers. Even though unemployment for that group dropped in July, many older adults have been struggling with long-term unemployment. In July, more than half (51.6 percent) of job seekers ages 55 and older were among the long-term unemployed, meaning they had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, according to Jennifer Schramm, AARP's senior strategic policy advisor for labor-market issues.

The fields that were hiring aggressively in July include several that offer jobs that are popular with older workers. Here are seven fields that bounced back in July based on BLS data.

1. Leisure and hospitality workers

  • July employment: 380,000 workers added
  • June employment: 394,000 workers added
  • May employment: 319,000 workers added

Earlier this summer, more restaurants began to lift restrictions as the vaccination rates started to rise. That's led to a steady hiring boom in dining establishments and bars. There also has been an increase in hiring in hotels, with more than 74,000 people in these fields hired in July alone.

2. Education workers

  • July employment: 87,000 workers added
  • June employment: 60,000 workers added
  • May employment: 46,000 workers added

While there still is much uncertainty about whether schools will be fully open for in-person learning this fall, many school districts have been hiring with the expectation that students will be back on campus. Nearly 29 percent of teachers are 50 or older, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition to jobs for in-person teachers, there also likely will be many opportunities in online tutoring for those with experience working in education.

3. Professional and business services workers

  • July employment: 60,000 workers added
  • June employment: 75,000 workers added
  • May employment: 50,000 workers added

The workers who were hired the most as offices reopened were accountants, bookkeepers and consultants, according to the BLS report. These fields typically also offer many opportunities for part-time and remote work for those with experience.

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4. Transportation workers

  • July employment: 50,000 workers added
  • June employment: 19,600 workers added
  • May employment: 15,000 workers added

With more people starting to return to work in business offices, public transportation agencies picked up their hiring to help commuters get from place to place. More than 19,000 people were hired last month by transit agencies, the BLS report found.

5. Health care workers

  • July employment: 46,800 workers added
  • June employment: 7,300 workers added
  • May employment: 12,800 workers added

The hiring boom here mostly results from doctor's and dentist's offices opening more fully for outpatient services. That's welcome news for health care workers who may have been idled during the pandemic and also for people who have delayed important checkups with physicians. But these offices may be quick to return to telemedicine if the delta variant continues to spread.

6. Real estate and rental workers

  • July employment: 18,000 workers added
  • June employment: 3,300 workers added
  • May employment: 2,900 workers added

The pandemic housing market continues to create job opportunities for real-estate agents. The set-your-own hours nature of this field has long been appealing to many older adults as they look for ways to earn income in retirement without having to keep a regular work schedule.

7. Construction workers

  • July employment: 11,000 workers added
  • June employment: 5,000 jobs lost
  • May employment: 22,000 jobs lost

The hiring in this field — a notable turnaround after two consecutive months of job losses — was primarily among people who work in residential construction and contracting. As more construction workers return to on-site jobs, that also could open up opportunities for older adults looking for jobs in the business offices that keep these companies operating.

Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers, and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.

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