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January 2008, Vol. 131, No. 1
Older workers: increasing their labor force participation and hours of work
Major changes in the movement of labor force participation rates and full-time employment of older workers have occurred during the past dozen years. A closer examination of available data reveals different trends in the labor force participation rates between workers aged 60 and older and workers aged 50–59, as well as varied trends by gender.
This article updates two time series of data on the average age at retirement of men and women aged 50 years or older. One series uses the median age at exit from the labor force (hereafter, median age at exit), and the other uses the mean age at initial receipt of the retirement or disability benefit provided by the Social Security Administration (hereafter, the Social Security mean). The addition of the most recent 5-year period in the series, 2000–05, provides a 50-year perspective. The latest data show a continuation of the leveling off of the Social Security average age, but a further drop in the median age at exit. The reason for this decline is the same as it was for the decline between 1990–95 and 1995–2000, namely, that workers aged 60 years or older withdrew from the labor force at a lower rate than workers 50–59 years old, shifting the age distribution of the estimated number of net exits toward the younger ages. The reason for this difference in exit rates is that the labor force participation rates of men and women aged 60 years or older have increased considerably since at least 1994, while there has been little or no change at ages 50–59. For workers 60 years or older, the increases are a major reversal of men’s long-run decline and a marked change from the previously flat trend among women. Furthermore, not only have these workers’ participation rates risen impressively, but this age group also has been increasingly working full time—and doing so throughout the year.
This excerpt is from an article published in the January 2008 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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