- The workforce is aging, with more older Americans working now than in previous years, according to a Senior Living report citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. In fact, Americans aged 65 and older are projected to be the fastest growing workforce segment through 2024.
- The top five occupational categories for older workers are management; sales; office and administrative assistance; transportation; and education and training. Older workers in management numbered 1.4 million in 2016, accounting for a 31% increase in older workers overall since 2011.
- About 260,000 older workers held production jobs in 2011, but grew by 36% to 354,000 in 2015. The smallest addition of older workers occurred in the maintenance and building and grounds cleaning occupations, which has just 6,000 people over 65.
The relatively high number of older workers in management is no surprise, since acquiring the skills for higher-level positions can take years. With age comes experience and knowledge, which older workers are more likely to have gained. But this means that many employers are fearing a "brain drain" as these workers begin to retire, especially in a tight labor market. Manufacturing also is expecting to be hard-hit.
The uptick in the number of older employees in the labor force suggests that more people are putting off retirement. The reasons range from the desire to stay active to the need to keep earning a living; many older workers are delaying retirement because they don't have enough savings to live on in their post-employment years.
Employers have begun to realize that action may be required on their part to overcome a talent crisis from both the brain drain and those who remain, creating no room for new talent. Some employers have increased 401k funding to encourage retirement, but many older workers have been caught in the transition between pensions to defined contribution plans and are not yet ready to leave. Others have opted for a phased retirement program.
Luckily for some, the contingent workforce has emerged as a powerful source of easy-to-access talent and a way for older, experienced workers to use their skills and earn a living. According to a study by Mavenlink, a cloud-based software provider, boomers are driving the gig economy; with a potential labor shortage on the horizon, employers may need to take advantage.