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September 16, 2012

Older Americans staying in the fight for jobs

Numbers of those 65 and older working or looking for jobs highest in half a century.


As frugal as she lives, Madden is nervous about giving up her full-time job because she doesn't know whether she'll have enough to maintain her lifestyle. Her future income will depend partly on a retirement annuity that's linked to the stock market.

"If you lost a lot and even if you recovered a lot of what was lost, the fluctuating stock market is constantly hanging over you," said Sara Rix, a senior advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute in Washington.

The housing downturn also left many seniors less wealthy. Although those 50 and older typically have more equity in their homes than younger homeowners, more than 1.5 million of them have lost their homes since 2007 because of the mortgage crisis, the AARP institute found.

What's more, Pew surveys suggest that people 65 and older were the most likely to be bracing for a long recovery. That helps explain why so many older workers have put off retirement.

And many seniors, thanks to the recession, now see how shaky their 401(k) retirement plans are. Without the assurance of the old corporate pension plans, they don't know exactly how far their retirement savings will stretch.

Of course, it isn't just finances that are keeping many seniors in the workforce.

Research shows many of the 78 million or so baby boomers, the oldest of whom is turning 66 this year, see working as a healthy way to stay active and productive.

And better-educated, older workers will have more opportunities to keep working than earlier generations, suggesting that their labor-force participation will keep growing in the years ahead.

That may be fine in a healthy economy, but in the current recession-like climate for workers, there just aren't enough jobs to absorb older workers without crowding out younger ones.

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