Seniors more likely to work longer in big metropolitan areas

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

CHICAGO (AP) — 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 Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“Those are the areas where all of the jobs are, really,” said 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.

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, said Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.

Among counties with at least 6,000 residents, about 12% have at least 21% 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% are located within the Northeast or in Maryland or Virginia. And nearly 15% are within 70 miles 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,” said 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, Virginia, and Alexandria, Virginia — are among the nation’s leaders in terms of senior labor force participation, with rates of nearly 37% and nearly 30%, respectively. This area is also home to one of the fastest-growing senior labor forces in the country — three of the 11 counties that saw senior participation rates climb the fastest between 2009 and 2017 are located within 70 miles of Washington.

But large, populous counties don’t have a monopoly on senior participation in the labor 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 based in Vermont.

In other parts of the country, Colorado had six of the top 50 counties in senior labor force participation in 2017 and participation growth from 2009 to 2017.

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

Though the jobs are often labor 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.

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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