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More Older Workers Make Up the U.S. Labor Force

Older workers now make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force. The number of workers age 55 and older increased by 3.5 million from September 2009 to September 2012. This increase represents the larger share of the gain of 4.2 million for all workers age 16 and older, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS projections on the U.S. labor force also indicate that the number of older workers will continue to rise. According to BLS, the percent change of workers age 65-74 will increase 83.4% during 2010-201.

Many factors contribute to the rise in older workers. Research shows that Baby Boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) are continuing to work as they age. In addition, the Great Recession has affected older Americans. Many have seen their 401(k) retirement plans shrink as the stock market has fallen. As a result, many seniors haven’t felt prepared to retire. In addition, the qualifying age to receive Social Security retirement benefits has been rising incrementally since 1998 and will reach 67 years by 20202. An outcome of this is that the average age of the work force has risen and is projected to continue to rise.

How can employers make the most of an older work force? A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that worksite health programs can be instrumental in maintaining older employees’ health, longevity and productivity. Indirect productivity-related costs of poor health, which include worker’s compensation and short-term disability, can be 2 to 3 times higher than direct medical costs3. Offering worksite health programs that promote healthy activities can help employers decrease costs related to health care and increase the return on their investment in workers.

Resources on Older Employees

For more information on older workers in the U.S., check these resources:

Resources on Older Americans

AoA collects and summarizes extensive data on older Americans. For more information on the characteristics of older Americans (including data on income, living arrangements, education, and health), visit these resources:

1See BLS Employment Projections at
2See CDC Issue Brief, Older Employees in the Workplace, page 1.
3See CDC Issue Brief, Older Employees in the Workplace , page 3.