Older Workers in Labor Force Is Highest in 35 Years

In separate report, more Americans are quitting jobs in hopes of finding another, despite high unemployment rate

More Americans close to or beyond retirement age are staying in the work force. The so-called labor-force participation rate reached 40.2% for older workers in 2010, the highest level over the 1975–2010 period, according to new data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The data finds for those at or over age 55, a higher percentage of men are in the labor force (46.4%) than women (36.4%). While this is a slight reduction for men since 1975 (when almost half—49.4%—were in the work force), it is a record high for women.

The labor force participation rate is defined as the percentage of working-age people who are either employed or unemployed but looking for a job.

In related news, despite systemically high unemployment and meager GDP growth, Bloomberg reports Americans are quitting their jobs at the highest level in almost three years, as they gain confidence in their ability to find another.

“Almost 2 million Americans quit their jobs in May, a 35% rise from the lowest level in January 2010, according to the Department of Labor,” according to the news service.

“An increase in employees switching jobs is a signal of increased confidence in the labor market and the overall economy,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James and Associates, told Bloomberg. "When the economy is rebounding, workers are more likely to quit their jobs to take another."

The piece cites data from the Conference Board, a New York research group, that found the number of people who perceive that jobs are "hard to get" subtracted from the number of those  who say opportunities are "plentiful" rose to negative 39% in July from a low of minus 46% in November 2009.

Bloomberg also notes a Right Management December survey that found “84% of employees planned to look for a new job in 2011, up from 60% the prior year. Only 5% intended to remain in their current position.”

The EBRI report says the upward trend in older workers is not surprising and is likely to continue because of workers’ need for access to employment-based health insurance and for more earning years to accumulate assets in defined contribution plans, particularly after the stock market and economy downturn in 2007–2008. Consequently, they have a greater need to work to help make their assets last longer or to continue to build up (or to rebuild) assets, EBRI notes.

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