U.S. seniors hunt jobs as retirement hopes fade

Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:21pm EDT
 
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By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Jean Johnson is 81 years old and suffering from diabetes. But instead of relaxing in retirement, she recently started a new job.

"I need money. My social security check just doesn't make it, with rent and the gas bill to pay," said Johnson, who took a job in March at a library in Danforth, Illinois. "I need to work."

Amid the economic downturn, shrinking retirement accounts, increasing costs for food and medicine, and stiff competition for even entry-level jobs, evidence is building that the dream of a comfortable retirement is dying for many Americans.

The ranks of the elderly looking for work has swelled more than 120 percent to more than 1.8 million in the last year. Among that group, those who were 75 and older increased by 80 percent, according to data from the National Council on Aging.

There are some 29 million seniors - those 55 and older - employed or actively looking for work in the United States, which is about 18 percent of the civilian labor force.

And their numbers are expected to grow.

"This economic crisis has had just a horrible impact on the entire population, but it has had a very severe impact on older people," said Sandra Nathan, workforce development vice president at the National Council on Aging.

Nathan said her organization was seeing a record number of people seeking assistance with job training and employment.   Continued...

 
<p>An elderly man walks through a lobby in Denver, Colorado August 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>