As portfolio values have dropped, more advisors are suggesting that some of their retired clients consider returning to work. It’s sound advice, particularly when the client needs the income and has a unique set of skills that employers want. Still, the national unemployment rate continues to move higher, so retirees will face increased competition in their job searches.

A recent AARP report, “Little to Cheer About: Unemployment and the Older Worker,” cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that paints a mixed employment picture for workers 55 and up. The good news is that the increase of the unemployment rate among those workers was less pronounced than the overall nationwide increase, from 4.8 percent in November to 4.9 percent in December.

That good news, though, is tempered by several other findings:

- December’s 4.9 percent rate is the highest monthly rate since October 1992.

- Over 1.4 million workers in the 55 and older cohort were unemployed and seeking work in December, an increase of 566,000 from December 2007.

- Long-term unemployment is more of a problem for older job-seekers; in December, 32 percent of job-seekers aged 55 and over had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer (versus 23 percent of job-seekers aged 25 to 54).

- The number of older persons out of work who wanted jobs but have not found them work rose from 826,000 in December 2007 to 1.1 million in December 2008.

“In this job market, it’s going to be a bit more challenging for someone who has retired and perhaps been out of the job market for a period of time to jump back in, particularly at a time where jobs are scarce and the competition is quite high,” says Deborah Russell, AARP’s director of workforce programs. “So although it’s feasible to go back to work, it may be very difficult during these challenging times.”

AARP has been expanding its job-search aids, some of which can be found at www.aarp.org/jobs. In addition, there’s more helpful resources at the new AARP “Real Relief” website, www.aarp.org/relief. One section discusses job tips for 50+ workers and includes suggestions on job search strategies, resumes, cover letters, interview skills and other topics.

Although some retirees may have the tools needed to find employment, others will find that the job-search process has changed a lot in recent years, and they’ll need to brush up their skills. Financial advisors certainly can help clients in their job search, Russell notes.

In particular, advisors can help clients realistically assess their skills in relation to available opportunities and determine if clients needs to update these skills.

For the AARP study, go online to: http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/econ/fs150_worker.pdf