Local News

Older adults going after teen jobs

Posted May 8, 2009 6:16 p.m. EDT
Updated May 8, 2009 7:53 p.m. EDT

— As a lifeguard, time for Jessica Bowen ticks away in taps, laps and twirls.

The 35-year-old Raleigh wife and mother of two, however, once treaded different waters with a position in management for an investment company. She took a voluntary layoff.

Now, Pullen Aquatics Center is her office, after wading through a job search for six months.

"I tried waitressing for a while. That hurt my back," Bowen said. "I'm not as young as I used to be."

Her co-workers at the pool are young. In fact, 90 percent of lifeguards for the City of Raleigh are high-school- or college-age.

Bowen is not alone. With North Carolina's unemployment rate at 10.8 percent in March (April numbers are due out later this month), competition is steeper for summer part-time jobs – traditionally filled by teens – that are attracting an older pool of applicants.

Raleigh Aquatics Director Terri Stroupe said that about 20 percent of those hired this year to fill the city's 200 lifeguard positions are not teenagers.

"We've found that we've gotten more college-age or older adults interested in our jobs that we have not seen in years past," Stroupe said.

Bowen said she might jump into swim instruction or water aerobics. And when the economy turns around, she said, she might go back to school.

Until then, her love of swimming is also her way to stay afloat.

"If you have to find another job, it should at least be something you enjoy," she said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate reached a 25-year high of 8.9 percent Friday with employers cutting 539,000 jobs in April.