Healthcare Workers Delaying Retirement

John Commins, May 25, 2011

The uncertainties around a sputtering economy have prompted the nation's healthcare workforce to delay retirement, a new study shows.

Research by The Conference Board shows that the healthcare industry experienced the largest decline in retirement rates among all workforce sectors in the U.S. economy. In 2009-2010, only 1.55% of full-time workers aged 55-64 retired within 12 months, compared with almost 4% in 2004-2007.

The study --U.S. Workers Delaying Retirement: What Businesses Can Learn from the Trends of Who, Where and Why-- found that healthcare workers are part of a larger trend among U.S. workers, who have retiring later since the mid 1990s – a trend that has been exacerbated by the recession and uneven recovery.

"Retirement rates declined significantly during and after the great recession," Gad Levanon, associate director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board, and author of the report, said in a media release. "However, we see that delayed retirement has been more prevalent for some occupations and industries. For example, the healthcare industry experienced the largest decline in retirement rates in recent years. Jobs in this field are also in great demand. On the other hand, there was almost no retirement delay among government workers, who are more likely to receive defined benefit pension plans."

Nancy Jennings, a vice president of clinical operations at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center in Chesapeake, VA, told HealthLeaders Media she was not surprised by The Conference Board's findings.

"I probably have 90 people right now who could walk in right now and hand in their papers. They just can't afford to. They're worried about the economy and whether or not they can live off their retirement," she says. "Maybe the 401(k) took a hit, or the husband might not have a job, or their kids have moved back home because they're unemployed."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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