December 20, 1999
By 2008, the median age of the labor force is expected to rise to 40.7 years, slightly higher than the previous high of 40.5 years recorded in 1962. The new record is the result of two complementary developments: the aging of the baby boom generation and projected rises in the participation rates of workers over age 55.
The age group 55 and older will grow by 14 million over the 1998-2008 period, with most of the growth among those aged 55 to 64 years. The annual growth rate of the population aged 55 or more is expected to be 2.3 percent—significantly higher than the growth rates expected among youth aged 16-24 or those aged 25 to 54. At the same time, the labor force participation rate for the 55 and over group is expected to rise much faster than the rates for the younger sets.
As a result, not only will the median age of the labor force rise over 40, but the share of the labor force that is over 55 will advance quite sharply while that of youth rises slightly and that of 25 to 54 year old drops. In 2008, the group aged 55 or over will make up 16.3 percent of the labor force, compared to a 12.4 percent share in 1998.
Labor force projections are a product of the Employment Projections program. To find out more, see "Labor force projections to 2008: steady growth and changing composition," by Howard N Fullerton, Jr., Monthly Labor Review, November 1999.