With more than 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964, the baby boomer population makes up one-third of the American workforce. With many of these workers nearing retirement, are there enough people to fill the positions left vacant by this generation and are these retiring boomers the answer to our nation's rising unemployment rate? (Don't let your effort go to waste by having these glaring red flags on your resume. For more information, check out 10 Resume Red Flags.)
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The answer could be as simple as an elementary math problem. Generation X was the next generation after the boomers from 1965 to 1981. The total amount of births was only 46 million people. If 76 million people were born during the boomer generation and only 46 million born during Generation X, some elementary school subtraction reveals up to 30 million jobs that could potentially be unfilled.
Here's an example of the impact of the boomers. As more baby boomers retire, the number of those retired compared to those working is rapidly changing. In 2000, there were 4.8 people still working for every one person retired. In 2010, the number shrank to 4.6, and by 2030 the number is expected to be cut to 2.8 for every one person working. As our population ages, we will need more nurses to take care of them.
But here's the problem: the nursing profession has an average age of greater than 45, meaning that as the overall population ages, the number of nurses retiring will increase; thus producing a nursing shortage. (Working in medicine offers a lot of options. Check out High-Paying Health Care Jobs.)
Nursing isn't the only profession with large projected staffing shortfalls. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, 68.5% of farmers are over the age of 45 with the oldest median age of all professions, 53. If the population continues to grow, the world will need more farmers. A shortfall in farmers could severely drive up food costs.
- Real Estate
Sixty-percent of real estate professionals, which include realtors, appraisers and inspectors, are over 45. While the housing market will surely experiences peaks and valleys, there will always be a need for real estate professionals.
- Airline Pilots
From 1993 to 2008, there has been a 172% increase in the amount of airline pilots needed to replace those who are retiring and that number is projected to rise. Even with airlines struggling to survive, they will have to replace retiring pilots.
- Special Education Teachers
With a median age of 50 and a huge increase in the amount of teachers needed to replace those retiring, this professional landscape is expected to change from one that is stereotyped by older more experienced workers to one that is dominated by new grads. (There's more to a job than just a paycheck. Don't miss 10 Rewarding Career Choices.)
Fifty-seven percent of pastors, ministers, rabbis and other people of faith are over the age of 45. Because they officiate funerals, hospital visits and other faith-based services, the demand could grow as the population ages.
From 2003 to 2008, 57,000 lawyers were needed to replace just those who retired and that number continues to rise. (Ever wondered why lawyers make so much money? Learn more in 5 Overpaid Jobs and Why Celebrity Lawyers Make The Big Bucks.)
Is it That Simple?
Unfortunately, an elementary school subtraction problem isn't going to answer this question. First, not all 76 million baby boomers are working and since unemployment statistics only measure those who are actively seeking work, forecasters can't simply look at the unemployment rate and subtract that from the 30 million person shortfall.
For those currently unemployed, or looking for a new line of work, it's not that simple. Many of the jobs left behind will be higher level jobs. Those currently employed will most likely move up leaving entry level positions. For those who can't afford to take a cut in pay to start over in a new field, the baby boomer retirement boon may not affect those already employed.
There's one more reason that our elementary school subtraction problem from above isn't accurate. Baby boomers are retiring just as businesses are reevaluating and trimming unneeded employees. For those businesses who don't want to lay off employees with a long and celebrated history, a retirement is the perfect opportunity to eliminate a position. This is already taking place but nobody knows how many jobs are gone forever.
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Not Everybody Agrees
There are three reasons that the baby boom problem might go the way of the Y2K scare. First, some experts believe that the financial meltdown of 2008 so severely degraded the value of workers' 401(K), IRA, and other retirement packages that workers may have to work additional years to make up for that loss.
Second, don't forget that the baby boomer generation is known for not only working hard, but playing hard too. As a result, many may not have saved enough to retire and, as a result, can't afford to retire. Finally, many simply want to work. A recent study showed that 57% plan to work beyond retirement.
"We don't want to sit on the porch and wait for the Grim Reaper," says Joyce Gioia, a strategic-planning consultant with Herman Group in Greensboro, N.C.
The Bottom Line
While there may be a shortage left by boomers, how much of a shortage and the impact left on the job market is still a source of great debate.
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