In 1998, adults ages 55 and older represented 12 percent of the American workforce. Twenty years later, this group represents 23 percent of the workforce, the largest labor force share of any age group. By 2028, nearly one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 are expected to remain in the labor force, and more than 12 percent of people 75 and older will still be working, roughly tripling the rate at which the oldest Americans were working two decades ago.
The growing economic devastation wrought by COVID-19 has impacted older adults as the unemployment rate for workers age 55 and higher jumped from 2.6 percent in February to 13.6 percent in April. As the economy reopens in coming weeks and months, the lasting impacts are likely to disproportionately impact seniors for two reasons. First, many seniors are not in jobs that take advantage of trends in remote work. Second, older adults may be encouraged by health authorities not to return to jobs that are unable to social distance.
Take bus drivers for example, where over 45 percent of this profession are age 55 and up, or ushers, where more than 25 percent are at least 55 years old. This report looks at the jobs that are most common for seniors, how have their labor force participation rates changed over time, and what impacts might arise from the COVID-19 crisis. We also compare the labor forces of each state.
- In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, at least 20 percent of adults ages 65 to 74 are in the workforce. In seven states, more than 30 percent are working.
- Since 2013, 46 of 51 had seen increases in workforce participation of 75-and-older residents. Seven states posted 20 percent gains, including Vermont, West Virginia, Maine, Georgia, Michigan, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
- Seniors represent significant portions of the workforce for many professions that require close contact with others, including bus drivers, ushers, ticket takers, taxi drivers, street vendors, chiropractors, dentists, barbers and many more.
- Following the Great Recession, it took an average of nine months for unemployed adults ages 51 to 60 to find a job compared to six months for younger workers.
For more on this study, please go to SeniorLiving.org.