Job Market of the Future Looking Grayer

September 3, 2009 ( - Current job trends of delayed retirements by older Americans and more young people putting off their job market entry for more schooling will mean nearly all U.S. job growth will be among those in higher age groups, according to a new study.

An Associated Press news report about the Pew Research Center study said the group foresees a rapidly graying labor market as people live longer and the economy in turmoil has made retirement easier to talk about than accomplish.

Pew’s survey and analysis of government data found the share of Americans age 55 and older who have or were seeking a job rose to 40% this year, the highest level since 1961. In contrast, people 16 to 24 who were active in the labor market decreased to 57%, down from 66% in 2000.

The U.S. labor force is expected to increase by 12.8 million workers from 2006 to 2016, including the 11.9 million who will be age 55 and older. Workers age 25 to 54 will increase by 2.5 million, while those age 16 to 24 will decrease by 1.5 million, Pew said, according to the news report.

“When it comes to work, this recession is having a differential impact by age. It’s keeping older adults in the work force longer, and younger adults out of the work force longer,” said Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project, according to the Associated Press. “Both of these trends pre-dated the current downturn, both have been intensified by it, and both are poised to outlast it.”

Asked to explain why they’re working, 54% of older workers responded that it was mostly because they wanted to. A sizeable number – nearly four in 10 – also acknowledged staying put at work partly because of the recession.

The Associated Press story said that among people 16 to 24, nearly half the respondents said they weren’t working because they wanted to focus on school or job training. About four in 10 said they looked for work but couldn’t find a job.

Among other findings:

  • After increasing for five decades, the share of women holding or seeking a job has flattened at 59%. That is about 13 percentage points below the rate of men in the labor market. Asked to identify their reasons for not working, women were nine times more likely than men to cite child care or other family responsibilities as a major factor.
  • Older workers tend to be happier. About 54% of workers age 65 and older said they were “completely satisfied” with their jobs, compared with 29% of workers age 18 to 64.
  • Most working mothers prefer a part-time job. Among those with a full-time job outside the home, six in 10 said they would like to have a job with fewer hours. By contrast, just 19% of fathers with a full-time job and a young child said they would prefer to work part-time.

Pew based its findings on data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It also interviewed 1,815 people age 16 and older by cell phone or landline from July 20 to August 2. The study report is available here .