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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.

Employment

  • In 2015, 33 million Americans aged 55+ were employed, and 1.3 million were actively seeking work. (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]
  • Nearly twice as many older workers aged 65+ were employed in 2015 than teenage workers (8.4 million vs 4.7 million). (BLS)
  • Weekly earnings vary by age and gender. In the 55-64 age group, median weekly earnings for men were $1,069 in 2015 and $781 for women. (BLS)

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, many older workers work part-time because of the weak job market or because they cannot find full-time work. An AARP Public Policy Institute survey of older workers in 2014 found that 41% of those experiencing long-term unemployment took part-time jobs to help pay the bills. (AARP Public Policy Institute)
  • In June 2014, 4.7% of workers aged 55+ held more than one job. Doing so may indicate an inability to find a job that pays enough hours. (AARP Public Policy Institute)

Unemployment

  • Mature workers made up 8.9% of the unemployed population in the U.S. in 2014. (BLS)
  • Nearly half a million older adults aged 55-64 and 168,000 aged 65+ who wanted to work in 2014 were unemployed 27 weeks or longer. (BLS)
  • An AARP survey of older workers found that half of those who had experienced unemployment between 2010-2014 were still not working at the end of that five-year period. (AARP Public Policy Institute)

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 2014, 218,000 mature workers indicated they wanted employment but were discouraged by their job prospects. (BLS)

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)

NCOA manages 27 SCSEP offices under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. SCSEP helps adults aged 55+ return to or remain active in the workforce by providing job training, job search services, and on-the-job experience.

Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) program

The SEE program allows workers aged 55+ to share their skills and expertise with the U.S. 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. NCOA is one of six national aging organizations administering the SEE program through a cooperative agreement with the EPA.