Mature Workers: Fact Sheet
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Mature Workers: Fact Sheet


NCOA Fact Sheets

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While many people think of older adults as retirees, the truth is millions of Americans aged 55+ work full or part-time jobs every day. The reasons they work are varied, but for many it’s a matter of necessity to remain financially secure and independent. Others work to stay active and engaged in their communities.

As the population ages, older Americans will play an increasingly important role in our economy and America’s leadership in the world marketplace. By 2019, over 40% of Americans aged 55+ will be employed, making up over 25% of the U.S. labor force. The Committee on Economic Development indicates that employers rate older workers high on characteristics such as judgment, commitment to quality, attendance, and punctuality.


  • In 2009, 27.1 million Americans aged 55+ were employed, and 1.9 million were actively seeking work.
  • In 2009, older workers represented 19% of the U.S. workforce, a significant increase from 1999 when they accounted for just 12%.
  • Weekly earnings vary by age and gender. In the 55-64 age group, men have the highest weekly earnings at $953, while women earn $730. Median weekly earnings for men aged 65+ are $686 and $534 for women. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)


  • The unemployment rate for job seekers aged 55+ has more than doubled since December 2007. On average, 1.5 million workers aged 55-64 and 421,000 workers aged 65+ were unemployed each month in 2009. (Urban Institute)
  • In May 2010, 60% of unemployed older workers had been out of work for six months or longer, and 43% had been without a job for more than a year. (CNN)
  • Although the rate of unemployment among mature workers is lower than younger populations, older workers who do become unemployed spend more time searching for work. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) Older workers also are unemployed for a longer time—11 months on average in July 2010 compared to 8 months for younger workers. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Mature workers make up 14.2% of the unemployed population in the U.S.
  • Unemployment in 2009 was more common among older men than older women. Over 14% of construction workers aged 55+ and 10% of older manufacturing workers were unemployed—well above the overall 2009 unemployment rate of 6.5% for adults aged 55+. (Urban Institute)
  • Nearly two-thirds of unemployed older men had careers in construction, manufacturing, or trade and professional services in 2009. Among women aged 55+, two-thirds of the unemployed came from trade, professional and business services, health care, manufacturing, and education. (Urban Institute)
  • On average, laid-off male workers aged 50–61 who become reemployed earn 15% less on the new job than the old job, and those aged 62+ earn 21% less. By contrast, reemployed laid-off men aged 35-49 average only 3% less per hour. For reemployed laid-off women, hourly pay cuts average 11% at age 35-49, 16% at age 50-61, and 23% at age 62+. (Urban Institute)

Part-Time & Multiple Jobs

  • Part-time work is appealing to many older workers who want to scale back but still remain in the workplace; however, nearly 1.2 million older workers work part-time because of the weak job market or because they cannot find full-time work. These “involuntary” part-time workers represent 5% of the employed mature workforce. (AARP Public Policy Institute)
  • In August 2010, almost 4% of workers aged 55+ held more than one job. Doing so may indicate an inability to find a job that pays enough hours.

Discouraged Mature Workers

  • Discouraged mature workers are not looking for work because they believe that none is available, employers will find them too old, they lack the necessary schooling/training, or they face other types of discrimination.
  • In August 2010, discouraged mature workers represented nearly 20% of older persons not in the workforce. (AARP Public Policy Institute)
  • Low-skilled older men are especially likely to report this status and age discrimination—29% of men who did not complete high school and 20% of high school graduates claimed their employers preferred younger workers, compared to 13% of men who had attended college. (Urban Institute)

NCOA’s Role

NCOA offers programs and hope for mature workers seeking to reenter or remain in the workforce.

Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) 

For over 40 years, NCOA has operated SCSEP, which places mature workers in temporary paid community service jobs while training them for permanent employment. The program also provides job skills training and job placement assistance to low-income job seekers aged 55+. Participants train in a variety of occupations including customer service, office and computers, food service, and health care. NCOA currently operates 22 SCSEP projects in 11 states. SCSEP is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program 

For more than 15 years, NCOA has been a sponsor of the SEE program, which provides an opportunity for retired and unemployed older Americans aged 55+ to share their expertise in jobs for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SEE positions range from clerical to technical and professional assignments as technicians, writers, engineers, scientists, and accountants working for the environment. The NCOA SEE program recruits candidates to work at EPA laboratories and offices in Washington, DC; Silver Spring, MD; Stennis Space Center, MS; Boston, MA; Sacramento, CA; Honolulu, HI; and Cincinnati, OH.

Learn more about mature workers.


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