Percentage of Older Americans in Workforce Increasing

August 2, 2007 ( - The number of Americans age 55 and older doing full-time, full-year work is increasing and occurs across various demographic groups according to an article in the August 2007 EBRI Notes published today by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Americans age 55 or older in the labor force increased from about 38% in 1993 to 45% in 2006, according to EBRI. For those ages 65 – 69, the percentage increased from about 18% in 1985 to 29% in 2006.

The percentage of workers age 55 or older who work full time, full year steadily increased from 54% in 1993 to 64% in 2005.

The article says the trend is likely driven by older Americans’ need to obtain affordable employment-based health insurance and to continue to accumulate savings in employment-based defined contribution retirement plans. Both trends of increased labor force participation and increased full-time, full-year work are likely to continue, EBRI predicts, since private-sector employers have been phasing out retiree health insurance for younger workers and are continuing to shift out of defined benefit pensions and into defined contribution retirement plans.

Other highlights of the EBRI Notes article include:

  • The percentage of male workers age 55 or older working full time, full year increased from about 61% in 1993 to nearly 70% in 2005. Female workers had an even larger percentage point increase, going from nearly 47% in 1993 to about 59% in 2005.
  • Each five-year age group among workers 55 or older showed an increase in the percentage working full time, full year. However, among the oldest workers, the likelihood that they were working full time, full year decreased. Workers ages 65 – 69 had the largest percentage point increase in working full time, full year, from 36% in 1987 to nearly 49% in 2005.
  • Across each race/ethnicity category, the percentage of workers age 55 or older working full time, full year increased from 1987 to 2005. Black workers had the largest percentage point increase, from nearly 53% in 1987 to nearly 68% in 2005. White workers this age had the lowest levels working full time, full year (63%) in 2005 and had one of the smallest increases in the percentage having this work status from 1987 to 2005.

The August 2007 EBRI Notes is here .