Now would seem like a great time to be looking for work. Job openings hit a record 10.9 million this summer — the highest figure since the Labor Department started tracking that number two decades ago. Is it time for you to return to work or maybe even look for a different job?
Kenneth Moore, 67, would say yes. The Chico, California, resident is an independent contractor with Amazon Flex, driving his 2018 Ford Fusion car to deliver packages whenever he wants to pick up a route from the online retailer. Moore says the part-time work — he puts in about 24 hours per week — is flexible and fun, and he’s lost 20 pounds since starting the gig in late June. Moore worked in heavy construction before retiring two years ago, but he found the pace of retirement was too slow, prompting him to take the Amazon position. “I like the idea of having something to do,” says Moore, adding that he didn’t want a job with set hours. “It’s like being your own boss.”
But despite the broad demand for workers throughout the U.S. economy right now, older Americans still face challenges getting the jobs they want. “Even when workers are scarce, many employers are reluctant to hire older workers,” says Richard W. Johnson, director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy. “They worry that older workers’ skills are out of date, that they are too expensive and that they will retire soon.”
Then there’s the continued coronavirus threat. “Older job hunters are worried about COVID,” says Eva Pagan, who enrolls job seekers in her role as assistant project director of AARP Foundation Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) in Orlando, Florida. Their top choice is clerical work, she says: “As long as they don’t have to be with customers or have many people around, then those are the jobs they’re looking for.”
Ready to work? Here’s what you need to know.
Jobs are in stores
Though you might have misgivings about customer contact, that is where many of the jobs are — between 1 million and 2 million openings apiece in health care, hotels and restaurants, and retail. If you are vaccinated, healthy and willing to carefully follow hygiene protocols to keep yourself and others protected, then “a lot of my members are very, very eager to have conversations with older workers with a ton of experience,” says Edwin Egee, vice president for government relations and workforce development at the National Retail Federation.