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Census: Many Ky. Baby Boomers aren’t retiring

Resource type: News

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) |

Decision to keep working has many benefits, experts say Original Source By Marcus Green Even as Kentucky’s Baby Boomers near traditional retirement age, they and other older workers make up one of the state’s fastest-growing parts of the work force, according to new Census data. And their decision to keep working may benefit us all, say experts, who predict there soon won’t be enough younger workers to take the jobs vacated by older workers — especially in fields like education. “We’re seeing a switch in the population, with a growing older work force and a declining younger work force,” said University of Louisville demographer Ron Crouch. A U.S. Census Bureau report released this week shows that nearly all of Kentucky’s counties — 111 out of 120 — saw an increase in the percentage of workers older than 55. And in some rural counties, that age group makes up more than one-fifth of the total work force. The report, which measured data from 2001 to 2004, is the most detailed analysis to date of the state’s graying labor force. It found 51,404 workers older than 55 in Jefferson County — a 58 percent jump over three years. Madeline Grieb is among them. At 62, she that said she has contemplated retiring but enjoys the relationships with her colleagues at Baptist Hospital East, where she works as nursing supervisor. “I think actually working and being around people keeps you younger,” she said. The Census Bureau report does not include federal workers or self-employed contractors and is part of an exhaustive state-by-state look at older workers across the nation. An Indiana report last fall found that more than 14 percent of all workers there in 2004 were 55 or older. More recent statewide data for Kentucky confirms the shift toward older workers. From 2002 to 2006, 19,550 fewer workers between 14 and 44 were employed in Kentucky, while there was an increase of 79,980 among those 45 and older, according to Census data analyzed by the Kentucky Education Cabinet. “This contrast is striking,” Justine Detzel, chief labor market analyst for the cabinet’s office of employment and training, said in an e-mail. “Looking forward, employers will be faced with a large decrease in not only personnel, but experience, as these older workers retire.” Once that wave of retirements hits, however, younger workers could find new opportunities and higher wages, she said — though the health care needs of an aging population are sure to strain government budgets and health care systems. In Kentucky the data show that 19 percent of workers employed in education are at least 55 years old. Crouch, who directs the University of Louisville’s Kentucky State Data Center, said those figures suggest a coming shortage of teachers when Baby Boomers retire. “This is going to be a big problem for the educational field,” he said. In Jefferson County, about 20 percent of the county’s estimated 4,620 education workers are 55 or older. “It’s a worry,” said Stephen Neal, executive director of the Jefferson County Teachers Association. He said that he’s concerned that fewer people appear to be studying to become teachers and that salary increases — Jefferson County teachers stand to get a 2 percent raise during the 2008-09 school year — aren’t providing much incentive to new teachers. “My worry is that as we have this bad economy one of the side impacts is: People will say, ‘The heck with it. I’m going to retire.’ ” The real estate industry also has a high number of older workers. In the state’s metropolitan areas, nearly 19 percent of those working in real estate are older than 55. They include people like Richard Streicher, 72, a managing broker with Semonin Realtors. He joined Semonin 11 years ago after several previous sales careers. “I just think it’s more acceptable now for older people” to keep working,” he said. “There are a lot of guys — and gals — my age who are working other jobs than being a greeter.” But some may be forced to work because their retirement income isn’t enough. A struggling stock market and pension outlook may mean that “As people live longer, they’re going to have to work longer,” Crouch said. Across Kentucky, nearly 13 percent of all workers were 55 or older. Leading the pack, according to the Census data, were Edmonson and Ballard counties with more than 20 percent of their total work force in that age group. Ballard County Judge-Executive Vickie Viniard said her far Western Kentucky county’s main employer is a paper mill that employs about 550 people. She hopes for a supply of younger workers but acknowledges that few residents who leave for college return to work: “We don’t have the employment here so they can stay here.”

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