By MaryAnn Griffin
There was good news earlier this month on the labor front: Nearly 200,000 jobs were added in the United States. But this good news does not apply to the labor force as a whole.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate among workers age 55 and older was among the highest in the country. Forty-three percent of older workers without a job went 36 weeks without employment.
Yet unemployment rates have not kept older workers from participating in the job market. The labor force participation for persons 55 and older rose during much of the recession and has stayed constant at about 25 percent.
The data suggests that the increased labor force participation of older workers reflects the need of many near-retirees to work after large losses in their retirement accounts and to ensure adequate post-retirement incomes to address increased life spans.
The long-standing proverbial “three-legged stool” of Social Security, employer pensions and retirement savings is virtually nonexistent for many retirees. The stark economic reality is that the number of people with a guaranteed pension has dropped to 15 percent.
In 2010, 75 percent of workers nearing retirement had less than $30,000 in their 401(k). And 60 percent 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 having the economic wherewithal to do so.
Through our series of strategic plan town hall meetings, we repeatedly heard residents say they needed to find a job and had been unsuccessful in doing so.
In response, the community and human services department’s JobLink program, in partnership with the division of aging and adult services and the commission on aging, has developed an initiative, called Experienced Workers Program: 55+. This program targets workers 55 and older looking to re-enter the workforce, whether 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 and meet one-on-one with prospective participants. They will acquaint participants with the program and gather information about them prior to becoming a JobLink client.
Once enrolled, an individual will be assigned an employment counselor. They will work together for the duration of the search.
In addition to individual job search assistance, JobLink staff members hold monthly programs in the community, with topics such as job readiness and how to write a winning resume. These events — open to the public — happen in various recreation centers around the community. For more information about this new program, contact Joan Straitiff of JobLink at 703-746-5713.
– The writer is the chief
of the city division of aging
and adult services.