New findings from the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) show there was a higher percentage of people age 55 and older (40.2%) in the workforce in 2010 -- the highest level in 35 years -- even after the 2008-2009 recession. The increase is likely to continue as full benefits from Social Security continue to come at later ages; Medicare premiums continue to climb; non-Medicare-covered health costs continue to climb; recognition of longer life spans and issues of long-term care increase as workers care for their aged parents; and the number “very confident” of their ability to maintain their lifestyle in retirement remains low.
“Older Americans, particularly those who worked in the private sector, increasingly have considerably less access to guaranteed levels of income such as pensions or health insurance benefits when they retire,” said Craig Copeland, EBRI senior research associate and author of the report. “And staying in the work force longer will allow them to either build up, or rebuild, their assets.”
The study found that the percentage of Americans age 55 or older who were in the labor force declined from 34.6% in 1975 to 29.4% in 1993. But since then, the overall labor-force participation rate has steadily increased, reaching 40.2% in 2010. Additionally, for workers near retirement age (55-64), the labor-participation rate increased almost solely because of the increase of women in the workforce, as the rate for men was flat to declining. However, the rates for men and women age 65 and older increased. EBRI also found that education is a big factor for older individuals staying in the work force: Those with higher levels of education are more likely to stay at work than those with lower levels of education.
Other findings in the report:
EBRI is a private, nonprofit research institute based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on health, savings, retirement and economic security issues. EBRI does not lobby and does not take policy positions.