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Job Picture Improves for Boomers Launching Second Acts

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The latest monthly jobs report from the Department of Labor shows improvement in the employment picture for Baby Boomers and older Americans, a turnaround that is now looking like a trend.

The share of full-time workers who are 55 years old or older has climbed to 21 percent this year, up from 17 percent in early 2008 and from 12 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The rise in jobs for older workers is partly due to the fact that Boomers are hanging onto their jobs longer, while others are extending their working years by pursuing second careers. Faced with the financial realities of being laid off, living longer, or just living, many boomers want or need to continue working.

There are as many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 who are in so-called "encore careers" - getting paid for work that combines their personal passion with a social purpose, according to the non-profit think tank Encore.org. Another 31 million, Encore said, are interested in making the leap.

Where are these "encore" jobs? Marci Alboher, author of the "Encore Career Handbook," said health care, education, government and nonprofits are the top fields for "encore" jobs and social entrepreneurship.

(Read more: How Retirement Planning Helps Avoid a Big Tax Hit)

Alboher says pro-bono consulting, serving on non-profit boards and skills-based volunteering are great ways to get started.

Websites like createthegood.org and volunteermatch.org are good resources for volunteer opportunities, and check out idealist.org for paid opportunities. For some workers in high-end careers, altruistic work may result in a cut in pay, Alboher says, but not necessarily.

New York financial advisor Judith Rosenthal tells clients to picture what they'll be doing to fill their days when they are in their 60s and 70s. While it's important for Boomers to consider the money they'll need to live comfortably in retirement, she said, it's more important for them to think about what they really want to do in retirement.

"For more flexibility, consider starting your own business or consulting firm," Rosenthal says. "Start small, but think big."

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