Ur­ban U.S. se­niors work­ing longer

The Prince George Citizen - - Worklife -

Se­niors in ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas, es­pe­cially in the North­east and around Wash­ing­ton, D.C., are more likely to con­tinue work­ing past age 65 than those in other ar­eas around the country, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of Cen­sus data by The As­so­ci­ated PressNORC Cen­ter for Public Af­fairs Re­search.

“Those are the ar­eas where all of the jobs are, re­ally,” says Anqi Chen, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for sav­ings re­search at Bos­ton Col­lege’s Cen­ter for Re­tire­ment Re­search. “The coastal ar­eas re­cov­ered well from the re­ces­sion, while other ar­eas have not.”

But it’s also the types of jobs in those ar­eas – gov­ern­ment, fi­nance, law and academia – that keep se­niors work­ing longer, an­a­lysts say.

Older work­ers can be a boon to re­gional economies, in­creas­ing tax rev­enues, stim­u­lat­ing growth with more con­sumer spend­ing and pro­vid­ing additional tal­ent and ex­per­tise at a time of low un­em­ploy­ment, says Paul Irv­ing, chair­man of the Milken In­sti­tute Cen­ter for the Fu­ture of Ag­ing.

Among coun­ties with at least 6,000 res­i­dents, about 12 per cent have at least 21 per cent of their se­niors work­ing or ac­tively look­ing for jobs, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of the Cen­sus’ 2017 Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey re­port.

Of that group, nearly 25 per cent are lo­cated within the North­east or in Mary­land or Vir­ginia.

And nearly 15 per cent are within 70 miles (113 kilo­me­tres) of New York, Bos­ton, Philadel­phia or Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“I con­sider my­self to be a very for­tu­nate per­son to still do what I loved at 27 at 74,” says Steve Burghardt, a pro­fes­sor of so­cial work at the City Univer­sity of New York.

“I feel ad­van­taged be­ing in New York, where you’re ex­posed to sights and sounds and dif­fer­ences that are al­ways ex­pos­ing me to new ways to un­der­stand my­self and to learn from other peo­ple.”

Two Wash­ing­ton sub­urbs, Falls Church, Va., and Alexan­dria, Va., are among the na­tion’s lead­ers in terms of se­nior labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion, with rates of nearly 37 per cent and nearly 30 per cent, re­spec­tively.

This area is also home to one of the fastest grow­ing se­nior labour forces in the country – three of the 11 coun­ties that saw se­nior par­tic­i­pa­tion rates climb the fastest be­tween 2009 and 2017 are lo­cated within 113 kilo­me­tres of Wash­ing­ton.

But large, pop­u­lous coun­ties don’t have a mo­nop­oly on se­nior par­tic­i­pa­tion in the labour force.

Ver­mont, one of the least pop­u­lous states, holds two coun­ties that rank among the top 100 (Wind­ham and Wash­ing­ton coun­ties) and eight among the top 329 in terms of se­nior par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“De­spite what­ever mis­nomers might ex­ist, there is a great de­mand out there for ma­ture work­ers,” says Mary Brana­gan, di­rec­tor of pro­gram and part­ner af­fairs at As­so­ciates for Train­ing and De­vel­op­ment, a work­force train­ing and de­vel­op­ment out­fit head­quar­tered in Ver­mont.

Brana­gan helps over­see the state’s Se­nior Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Em­ploy­ment pro­gram, which matches qual­i­fy­ing un­em­ployed state res­i­dents at least 55 years of age with paid in­tern­ships that can help them up­date their skills and re­main in the work­place longer.

She says her com­pany’s of­fices in Wash­ing­ton and Wind­ham coun­ties are among its largest statewide.

In other ar­eas of the country, Colorado has six of the top 50 coun­ties both in terms of se­nior labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion in 2017 and par­tic­i­pa­tion growth be­tween 2009 and 2017.

And ru­ral coun­ties heavy in agri­cul­tural em­ploy­ment, es­pe­cially in Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, boast a con­sid­er­able se­nior labour par­tic­i­pa­tion rate.

Though the jobs are of­ten labour in­ten­sive, agri­cul­tural pro­fes­sions main­tain some of the high­est me­dian ages in the country, ac­cord­ing to Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics data.

That’s due in part to much of U.S. agri­cul­ture be­ing con­cen­trated in fam­ily farms, the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture says.

Peo­ple can con­tinue liv­ing and work­ing on these op­er­a­tions well into their “re­tire­ment” years by scal­ing things down and rent­ing land to other farm­ers.

At the other end of the spec­trum, se­nior labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion in 2017 was less than 12 per cent in nearly 14 per cent of coun­ties with at least 6,000 res­i­dents.

Ken­tucky, Michi­gan, Ge­or­gia, Alabama, Florida and West Vir­ginia col­lec­tively ac­counted for more than 50 per cent of those bot­tom-rank­ing coun­ties in terms of se­nior labour par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Se­nior par­tic­i­pa­tion con­tracted in more than 24 per cent of coun­ties be­tween 2009 and 2017. Nearly 33 per cent of those coun­ties are lo­cated in Ge­or­gia, Texas, Mis­souri, Ken­tucky or North Carolina.

Ex­perts say it’s these low­er­rank­ing coun­ties that are miss­ing out on the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of a stronger se­nior labour force. These ar­eas also stand to ben­e­fit most from tar­geted skills train­ing investment­s and other ini­tia­tives that would spur se­niors off the side­lines.

“It’s good for GDP growth over­all and it’s gen­er­ally just good for the health of the over­all econ­omy,” says An­drew Cham­ber­lain, chief econ­o­mist at em­ploy­ment hub Glass­door, re­fer­ring to se­nior par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force.

Chen notes manufactur­ing-heavy ar­eas within the Rust Belt and in states in­clud­ing Alabama and Ge­or­gia are among those with the low­est se­nior labour par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Manufactur­ing pay­rolls have plum­meted over re­cent decades amid au­to­ma­tion and glob­al­iza­tion chal­lenges.

Labour-in­ten­sive jobs that are prom­i­nent in those ar­eas of­ten pre­clude folks from work­ing later into life, and the types of white col­lar jobs that are more preva­lent in larger cities are in shorter sup­ply.

“It’s partly just how grim the job prospects are in a lot of mi­crop­oli­tan, or small city and ru­ral, ar­eas,” says Gary Burt­less, a se­nior fel­low at the Brook­ings Institutio­n. “A lot of them are one-in­dus­try towns. And if that in­dus­try has been hit hard, that’s go­ing to be a prob­lem for younger work­ers and older work­ers.”

Burt­less notes el­derly labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion tends to be higher in ur­ban ar­eas where older work­ers are bet­ter ed­u­cated, bet­ter com­pen­sated and less re­liant on labour-in­ten­sive blue col­lar in­dus­tries.

“The think­ing as to why highly ed­u­cated peo­ple tend to work longer is that they may en­joy bet­ter health. They may en­joy bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions,” says Jen Schramm, a strate­gic pol­icy ad­viser for the AARP Public Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

“They are likely to be paid more, so that’s more of an in­cen­tive to keep work­ing.”

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