There was good news in July on the labor front; nearly 200,000 jobs were added in the U.S. Indeed a bright spot for most job seekers, even though the unemployment rate stubbornly remains at 7.6 %. But this good news does not apply to all parts of the labor force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate among workers age 55-plus was among the highest in the country and 43% of older workers without a job had a 36-week period of joblessness.
Yet the unemployment rates have not kept older workers from participating in the job market. The labor force participation for persons aged 55+ rose during much of the recession and has stayed constant at about 25%. The data suggests that the increased labor force participation of older workers reflects both the need of many near retirees to work after large losses in their retirement accounts and the need of older workers to ensure adequate post-retirement incomes to address increased life spans.
The proverbial “3-legged stool” [Social Security, employer pensions and retirement savings] is virtually non-existent for many retirees. The number of people with a guaranteed pension has dropped to 15%. In 2010, 75% of workers nearing retirement had less than $30,000 in their 401 (K). And 60% of low-income households are at risk of being unable to maintain even modest living standards in retirement.
An important component of being able to age in Alexandria is to have the economic wherewithal to do so. Through our series of Strategic Plan Town Hall meetings, we repeatedly heard Alexandria residents say that they needed to find a job and had been unsuccessful in doing so. In response, the City’s Department of Community and Human Services JobLink program, in a collaborative partnership with the Division of Aging and Adult Services and the Commission on Aging, has developed the Experienced Workers 55+ Program. This new program targets workers aged 55 and older who are trying to re-enter the work force because they were downsized, retired too soon or are looking for a new career.
The program features a designated point of contact who will hold weekly orientation sessions, as well as meeting one on one with prospective program participants to acquaint them with the program and gather information about them prior to enrollment as a JobLink client. Once enrolled, an individual will be assigned to an Employment Specialist. They will work together for the duration of the employment search.
In addition to individual job search assistance, JobLink staff members hold monthly workshops such as Job Readiness, Interview Skills and other topics. For more information about this new program, contact Joan Straitiff at JobLink, 703-746-5713.
Written by: MaryAnn Griffin, MSW- City of Alexandria, Division Chief, Aging and Adult Services
Note: This article ran in the Alexandria Times on July 18, 2013 and is used with permission.