As our aging population continues to grow, the traditional job path for many Americans is changing. Our labor force is evolving in response to the needs and wants of older adults. Employment for people in their 50s, 60s, and beyond can be a dynamic work/life balance, rather than the linear path that has been popular in past decades.
What does this mean for older adults who want to change career paths or continue working in some capacity? Check out these insights on the job outlook for older workers.
Older adults are becoming the largest segment of job seekers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 40% of people 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014. That number is expected to increase fastest for the oldest portions of our population through 2024, which includes people age 65 and older. Meanwhile, other age groups in the labor force are not expected to change participation rates during the same time.
A changing labor force
As more older adults begin or remain working, the job outlook for older workers will change. This is already evident in data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
From 1970 through 2000, workers age 55 and older made up the smallest group of the labor force. But in 1990, this started to change. The number of older workers began to increase, while the number of younger workers declined. By 2003, the older age segment no longer had the smallest share of the labor force.
By 2024, the labor force is projected to include about 41 million people age 55 and older, with 13 million age 65 and older.
Age 65 and up is the smallest age group in the labor force. But, it is projected to grow faster than other groups in upcoming years than any other age segments. From 2014-2024, the expected growth rate is:
- 55% for age 65-74
- 86% for age 75 and older
- 5% for the labor force as a whole
What is causing changes in the job outlook for older workers?
The baby boomer generation has played a significant role in evolving the labor force into what it is today. Baby boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. By 2024, boomers will be age 60 to 78. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects this generation to continue working later in life.
People are working later in life for a number of reasons
Financial: 70% of Boomers have less than $5,000 saved in an emergency fund, and only 28% of Boomers believe they will have enough money to retire. Lack of financial confidence and immediate financial needs coupled with longer life spans means more people need to work later in life.
Seeking purpose: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places self-actualization at the top and defines it as identifying, seeking, and achieving a purpose. Meaningful work provides older adults with a social purpose and personal value.
Changing career paths: Life changes such as an empty nest, a loss of a parent, end of a marriage, new romance, an illness, a loss of parent or a move from a home to an apartment can cause people to evaluate a new career. Some older adults have the time and financial ability to explore professional interests in a new career.
Desire to stay active: Boomers are redefining retirement with their desire to stay active in the workforce. Seven out of ten pre-retirees say they would ideally like to include some work in their retirement years.
What options are available for older job seekers?
The number of older adults continuing or seeking employment is growing, but what options are available? Depending on a person’s background, abilities, and interests, there are many options for older adults who want to work. In some areas, the job outlook for older workers is on the rise.
Experience is an asset.
There is something to be said about the value older workers bring to our labor force in the form of experience and industry knowledge. Experience is only gained through years of learning, trial, and growth, and brings with it a magnitude of contributions to the American workforce.
Older adults are using their experience in a variety of work settings, including full time, part time, and self-employment, among others.
The job outlook for older workers varies across many industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 55 and older are employed across many types of occupations. In 2016, more than 42% of older workers were in management, professional, and related occupations. The same year, workers 55 and older made up at least one third of the following occupations:
- Archivists, curators, and museum technicians
- Bus drivers
- Furniture finishers
- Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
- Medical transcriptionists
- Proofreaders and copy markers
- Property, real estate, and community association managers
- Real estate brokers and sales agents
- Tax preparers
- Travel agents
Self-employment and gig work is becoming increasingly popular among older adults. These options offer flexibility and independence. The experience and knowledge gained over the course of a career put some older adults in a good position to be their own boss.
Part-time jobs can be a good option for older workers who would prefer to work fewer hours. This offers a continuous income that can help out with bills or support a hobby. In 2016, people age 55 and older made up 27% of part-time workers, compared to people age 25 to 54 making up 18% of part-time workers.
Many older workers choose to remain in the labor force part time to stay active. Those considering part-time work for this reason may want to explore seasonal positions. These short-term assignments offer a change of scene and the opportunity to learn new things.
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
Are you 55 and older and looking for a job? The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) provides paid, on-the-job training to help you find a job. Work part time at a nonprofit or government agency while receiving an individual employment plan and job search tips. Eligibility requirements apply.
VANTAGE Workforce Solutions offers SCSEP in 38 Ohio counties. Learn more about SCSEP, or call 330-253-4597 for more details.
Encore Staffing Network
Encore Staffing Network, a division of VANTAGE Aging, specializes in staffing solutions for people near or at retirement age in the Greater Cleveland area. Funded by the Cleveland Foundation, choose from opportunities using your time, energy, and talents to solve community challenges and fill unmet needs.
Learn more about Encore Staffing Network, or call 216-361-9750 for more details.
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.