Special Report

The Worst Cities for Retirees to Find Work

Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. As of the end of last year, 7.3% of Americans 75 and older were employed — the highest level since 1966, according to The Wall Street Journal. But as the number of job seekers among retirement-age people has increased, so has the unemployment rate among that age group. It is now twice what it was five years ago.

The issue of unemployment among older Americans is even more important now because retirement plans lost so much money since the recession began. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the cities with the highest unemployment rates for Americans 65 and older.

The cities with the highest unemployment rates among those 65 and older do not necessarily have the highest unemployment rates among the general population. In fact, many of the metropolitan regions on the list have unemployment rates below the national average. In five of the six cities on our list, unemployment rates are substantially worse for those 65 and older than for the population as a whole.

The reason for this disparity among the age groups can be attributed to the fact that these cities, for the most part, rely heavily on industries like finance, banking, telecommunications and technology — areas that have a high percentage of professional or specialized jobs. More than many other fields, these kinds of jobs require a high degree of training. For those seeking to reenter the workforce, or change their line of work, this can present a challenge.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed labor force statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics survey. This study provides age-based information for 46 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country for the years 2005 to 2010. In seven of these metropolitan regions, unemployment rates in 2010 — the most recent available data — were higher for older Americans than for the entire population. We examined unemployment rates, labor participation and total unemployment for these regions, also from the Current Employment Statistics, to get a better look at the employment picture as a whole. We examined median income and population change over a 10-year period in these metro areas from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

6. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Tex.
> 65 and older unemployment rate: 10.3%
> General unemployment rate: 7.1%
> Population change 2000 – 2010: +37.33% (8th most growth)
> Median income: $55,744 (50th highest)
> Pct. 65 and older: 8.1% (9th lowest)

The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan area is one of the fastest-growing regions of young families and professionals in the country. Between 2000 and 2010, the population increased by 37%. Hundreds of thousands moved to the area in those years looking for jobs in the city’s up-and-coming semiconductor and software industries. Just 8.1% of the greater Austin region’s residents are 65 and older, the ninth-lowest rate among all metropolitan areas. More than a quarter of them are employed — the highest recorded rate among metro regions. However, 28.6% are looking for work — also the highest rate in the U.S. Because of this high demand for jobs, the region has a much higher-than-average unemployment rate for the older residents at 10.3%. This is despite the region having an unemployment rate for its whole population of just 7.1% — well below the national average.

5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
> 65 and older unemployment rate: 11.3%
> General unemployment rate: 8.9%
> Population change 2000 – 2010: +3.88% (281st most growth)
> Median income: $74,831 (3rd highest)
> Pct. 65 and older: 13.5% (166th highest)

The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region is one of the wealthiest areas in the country. Part of the region is Fairfield County, the state’s gateway to New York City, which has a median income of just under $75,000. Besides serving as a suburban community for New York City workers, the region is home to a large financial sector. Jobs in health care, education and finance account for roughly one in four nonfarm jobs in the region. In 2010, the unemployment rate in the region was 8.9%, which was below the national average. However, unemployment for residents 65 and older was 11.3%.

4. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
> 65 and older unemployment rate: 13.4%
> General unemployment rate: 14.7%
> Population change 2000 – 2010: +41.8% (4th most growth)
> Median income: $51,437
> Pct. 65 and older: 11.3% (86th lowest)

The Las Vegas metropolitan region had one of the fastest-growing economies in the U.S. before the housing bubble burst. Between 2000 and 2010, total population increased by more than 40%. Going back to 1990, the population has increased by more than 160%. When the housing market crashed, the damage dealt to the construction and real estate sectors had a ripple effect throughout the economy. This led to one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The migration of young families from other parts of the country to Las Vegas when it was booming resulted in a relatively young population — just 11.3% are 65 or older. Of that group, more than one in five was part of the labor force, meaning they are either working or trying to get work. Among those 65 and older who were looking for work, 13.4% were unemployed in 2010.

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
> 65 and older unemployment rate: 14.2%
> General unemployment rate: 10.6%
> Population change 2000 – 2010: +13.01% (137th most growth)
> Median income: $63,088 (16th highest)
> Pct. 65 and older: 10.8% (70th highest)

Seattle is one of America’s industrial cities that has managed to establish itself as a high-tech, growth-sector hub. In the past several decades, the metropolitan region has become home to several large, relatively young companies, including Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX), Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), which is the second-biggest employer in the city. The region has also been a manufacturing center, home to companies like Boeing (NYSE: BA), which is still its biggest employer. Seattle’s unemployment rate in 2010 was 10.6%, which was above-average for metropolitan regions. And perhaps not surprising given the city’s technology focus, its unemployment rate for those 65 and older was much higher that year at 14.2%.

2. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
> 65 and older unemployment rate: 14.5%
> General unemployment rate: 11.3%
> Population change 2000 – 2010: +16.16% (94th most growth)
> Median income: $43,547 (142nd lowest)
> Pct. 65 and older: 17.3% (68th highest)

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida region has grown at a faster-than-average rate. And like most of the state of Florida, the region also was hit hard by the housing crisis. The unemployment rate among the general population in 2010 was 11.3%, one of the highest rates in the country. Among residents over 65, that rate was 14.5%, the second-highest in the country for the older Americans. Only 14.5% of the 481,000 Tampa Bay residents 65 are in the labor force, meaning they have jobs or are looking for jobs. This labor force participation rate is well below the average among metro areas. Tampa’s economy relies on high-skill industries, including finance, insurance and telecommunications.

1. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
> 65 and older unemployment rate: 15.5%
> General unemployment rate: 10.8%
> Population change 2000 – 2010: +32.14% (15th highest)
> Median income: $50,449 (102nd highest)
> Pct. 65 and older: 10.1% (43rd lowest)

The Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill region was one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country last decade. The population is young, with just over 10% of residents over the age of 65. In 2010, the unemployment rate in the Charlotte region was 10.8% for the general population — already above the national unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for residents 65 and older was even higher, at 15.5% — the worst in the country for the age group. Charlotte is a major industrial hub but also one of the biggest banking and finance centers in the country. With the biggest employers including Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), roughly one in 10 jobs in the region is in the financial services field.

Michael B. Sauter, Ashley C. Allen

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