“As the U.S. economy continues its sluggish recovery from the recession and global economic crisis, more seniors and fewer young adults are in the work force now compared with 2010,” said Brendan Moore, a Gallup analyst. “There has been a three-point increase since 2010 in the percentage of Americans aged 65 and older who are in the work force—employed full time through an employer, self-employed, working part time, or unemployed but actively searching for work. At the same time, there has been a two-point decrease in the percentage of Americans ages 18 to 29 who are in the work force.”
The poll found that the recession contributed to significant household wealth reductions that Americans are still trying to recoup, with more older Americans either postponing retirement or former retirees re-entering the work force. In addition, Gallup data showed that 12% of those 65 and older are employed full time for an employer or are self-employed full time in 2013, compared with 9% in 2010, suggesting that more older Americans may be keeping their full-time jobs.
The poll also revealed that among younger Americans, ages 18 to 29, the biggest change in work force participation between 2010 and 2013 was a two-point decrease in the percentage of those with a high school education or less. This may be explained by the inability of some in this group to find work or by their simply seeking more schooling. For members of this age group with some form of higher education, the decreases in employment were more modest.
In addition, the poll showed that those 65 and older experienced work force increases among all educational levels, including four-point increases for those with undergraduate degrees and postgraduate education. Work force participation among older Americans with a high school education or less remained relatively stable at 18% in 2013, compared with 17% in 2010.
According to Moore, the poll showed that 61% of respondents worried about having enough money for retirement, a concern that has been intensified by the recession and its aftermath. This in turn, he said, may have caused more older Americans near retirement age to remain in the work force, postponing their retirement till savings have been replenished.
This poll was based on phone interviews conducted by Gallup between January 1, 2010 and September 24, 2013. The respondents were a random sample of 264,670 adults, including 37,407 individuals ages 18 to 29 and 77,108 individuals ages 65 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.