Older Americans Losing Jobs

Americans 55 and Older Are Suddenly Losing Jobs

Updated on Apr 22 2019


While the unemployment rate for the United States as a whole has held steady at a low 3.8 percent, March 2019 brought a sudden decline in employment for people age 55 and older. Learn more about the sudden rise in unemployment among older Americans and what it means for seniors in the workforce.

Working longer offers many benefits. The problem is that many Americans can’t control how long they work if they are getting laid off or losing jobs for other reasons, such as not being as qualified as competing candidates with specific degrees in evolving industries. Even though there is an overall positive trend for senior employment, learn why it’s important to be proactive to prepare for retirement and income loss emergencies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for people ages 55 and older dropped 209,000 jobs last month, marking the largest decline since February 2015. Hiring in the U.S. largely rebounded in March but over jobs were cut for people 55 and older. Experts say that while the decline is notable, data from the monthly employment reports can be volatile and that this age group still has the lowest unemployment level of all cohorts with a 2.7 percent jobless rate.

Craig Dismuke, chief economist at Vining Sparks explains, “This data tends to be volatile monthly. I don’t think it’s the start of a trend. Broadly speaking, I think the labor market has been very good for people over the age of 55 and 65.”

Even though the monthly drop is alarming, it may appear larger than it actually is because of the small sample size of the population survey of about 60,000 households. The sample size becomes even smaller when separated for different demographics, like age. But the survey results bring up an important topic: That older Americans need to be prepared for financial surprises.

Sluggish Growth in Senior Employment Industries

Although overall trends look good for senior employment and the monthly data can be volatile, there are still several industries where growth has slowed. These industries are skewed toward employing seniors and include the government sector and educational services.

In the past ten years, baby boomers have been the biggest job gainers - potentially because today’s seniors fear not having money saved for retirement. Dismuke comments:

“The broader trend is that the participation in 55 and over continue to rise. I do think there’s an issue that people haven’t saved enough and they are forced to work longer. We have a smaller percentage of jobs today that are manually taxing like they would have been 40 years ago.”

Fastest Growing Segment of Workforce

Regardless of last month’s drop in jobs for seniors, Americans aged 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. A 2018 survey from Gallup that included over 1,000 Americans over the age of 18 found that 41 percent of participants who are not retired plan to leave the workplace at age 66 or older. That number has significantly increased from 12 percent in 1995 and 26 percent in 2004.

Over the past 10 years, real wage growth has stalled, pensions have disappeared, taxpayers are delaying Social Security, and people are living longer - all factors that contribute to financial anxiety in retirement and leave seniors remaining in the workplace longer.

Knowing when to retire is a major component of retirement planning and one that fiduciary financial advisors can help determine. Meeting with a knowledgeable financial expert can help you create a sound retirement plan that is attainable, remaining secure with market trends and volatility. Putting your interests first, fiduciary financial advisors are trusted partners in your retirement plan, helping to ensure that you have the retirement you have been working towards.

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