Friday, January 25, 2013

Older Workers Clocking in More Years on the Job

Two recent stories about older workers caught our attention.

A recent article from USA Today takes a look at older Americans continuing to work later in life. While still a small share (8%) of the workforce, the number of those ages 75 and older in the workforce grew by nearly 77 percent over the past two decades. A number of factors may be at play: some may need more money; and others may just love their jobs and want to actively engage in the workplace.

Still, many baby boomers are coming into retirement. Another story from the New York Times reports that, for this reason, the nation's labor force participation rate has fallen drastically over the last few years. The labor force declines aren't as severe as anticipated, because 16 percent of the U.S. population ages 65 and older still works. While that's up from 12 percent two decades earlier, labor force participation rates for those ages 65 and older exceeded 25 percent in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Looking again at reasons for older workers remaining in the workforce, the New York Times story reports that in 2011 and 2012, about one-fifth of workers expected to retire later than planned. Many cited "inadequate finances" or "making up for losses in the stock market" during the Great Recession as their reason for continuing employment.

Another news piece serves as a lighter side note to the two features above:

A CNN Money story from today reads as follows: "A new generation has hit the workforce. They are 'impatient at being kept in the wings. They want to get out there on center stage. They want to be heard.'
They tell stuck-in-the-mud employers that they want 'fulfillment from their work' and 'they come with high hopes acquired at college for improvement of the environment and of society, and they insist that their companies work actively toward such goals.' They have a high degree of self-confidence, and want personal projects -- volunteer work, etc. -- to 'count as a plus rather than a minus on their employment record.'"

This sounds like one of many articles we've read about Millennials, the latest generation to enter the workforce en masse. However, the extensive quote above comes from an article in the March 1971 edition of Fortune magazine. The basic point of the story is that what we as a society say of new workers now may closely reflect how baby boomers were typecasted when they entered the workforce. The full story provides a wealth of additional information.

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