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BLS Spotlight on Older Workers


(October 16, 2008)  To help our readership keep up with the effects of aging on the workforce, we are presenting the latest finding from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS).

Older Workers
Are there more older people in the workplace?
Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over). The number of employed men 65 and over rose 75 percent, but employment of women 65 and older increased by nearly twice as much, climbing 147 percent. While the number of employed people age 75 and over is relatively small (0.8 percent of the employed in 2007), this group had the most dramatic gain, increasing 172 percent between 1977 and 2007.

BLS Chart
Source: Current Population Survey (CPS)


Does this increase just reflect the aging of the baby-boom population?
No, because in 2007 the baby-boom generation those individuals born between 1946 and 1964 had not yet reached the age of 65.

Between 1977 and 2007, the age 65 and older civilian noninstitutional population which excludes people in nursing homes increased by about 60 percent, somewhat faster than the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over (46 percent). Yet employment of people 65 and over doubled while employment for everyone 16 and over increased by less than 60 percent. How can employment increase more than the population? A larger share of people 65 and older is staying in or returning to the labor force (which consists of those working or looking for work). The labor force participation rate for older workers has been rising since the late 1990s. This is especially notable because the 65-and-over labor force participation rate had been at historic lows during the 1980s and early 1990s.

BLS Chart
Source: Current Population Survey (CPS)

The complete BLS report on Aging also answers the following questions:
Are older workers choosing part-time or full-time employment?
What portion of employed older women are married?
Source: Current Population Survey (CPS) | Chart Data
How do older workers stack up against younger workers in terms of education?
How do wages of older workers measure up against wages for all workers?
How does inflation affect older workers?
How have retirement benefits changed?
Is this graying of the workforce expected to continue?

With the baby-boom generation about to start joining the ranks of those age 65 and over, the graying of the American workforce is only just beginning.

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Send comments to: Colleen Gildea
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