American Workforce Getting Older, Working Longer
28 October 2009
The American workforce is getting grayer. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of workers between 65 and 74 years old will grow by more than 80 percent between 2006 and 2016. Economic hard-times are causing members of the so-called 'baby-boomer' generation to postpone their retirement plans.
At 70-years-old, Joan Hansen is still working. Born in 1938, Hansen could have retired with full government benefits at 65. But she admits being nervous about quitting her job as head a small, non-profit organization.
"When you think about no longer receiving your salary and wanting to still have a nice lifestyle, it does become a little bit scary," Hansen said.
Hansen's daughter died several years ago. She says she keeps working to make enough money to raise her 14-year-old granddaughter. "I do have a lot of expenses," she says, "so with the economy the way it is, you're just a little bit fearful of breaking off and trying to start a new life."
So that she can stay on the job, Hansen keeps healthy by exercising.
A Pew Research Center study finds that 40 percent of Americans, like Hansen, work past the median retirement age because of economic conditions.
Economist Sean Snaith says seniors are hard hit by declines in home equity and retirement funds. "A lot of both retirees and near retirees, of course, saw their nest eggs cut in half," she explains, "and in and of itself that, I think, prompted a lot of people to say, 'You know, I can't retire now because I just don't have enough saved up.'"
While officials forecast a growing number of older workers, they predict a decline in employment among people under 24.
"For people that are trying to find jobs, older workers that are staying on the job much later in life are effectively locking up those slots," Snaith said.
The U.S. Census Bureau says a desire for more retirement savings, an increase in life expectancy and the high cost of health care all contribute to the increasing age of America's workforce. Like many Americas, Joan Hansen says she does not yet know when she will retire, but she expects to continue working for the foreseeable future.