According to Bloomberg, older workers could help save America from “workforce peril.” The article gives older workers the credit for the fact that workforce participation rates stabilized in 2016, after a long downward trend.
“The share of workers older than 61 transitioning into retirement slowed last year for the first time since 2012. As graying workers continued to toil, they were the biggest single driver helping to prop up labor force participation,” the article says, citing analysis by Atlanta Federal Reserve researcher Ellyn Terry.
Workers are working longer–but not as long as they want to, research shows: “About 60 percent of retirees in a 2016 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey reported retiring earlier than they had planned, while just 7 percent reported retiring later.”
Poor health is one issue, but just as important is the challenge older workers face when they are laid off or reorganized. Yes, age discrimination is still a thing.
The Bloomberg article notes that Millennials are now aged 20-36, which means most of them are already in the labor market. The generation behind them is much smaller. Therefore, if immigration slows, labor force growth slows along with it.
The only way to keep the economy growing without labor force growth is through productivity improvement, which is tricky business.
Keeping older workers in the workforce would help maintain the size of the labor force. It would also improve the morale and sense of purpose of older workers. Bloomberg’s case in point: Philip Lenowitz, who is officially retired from the National Institutes of Health but who still acts as a consultant. “”The mission pull is tremendous,’ said Lenowitz, who was an options trader before he went on to work at Veterans Affairs and then the NIH for 16 years. He revels in the chance to help researchers working to find cures to cancer and diabetes. ‘You’ve got knowledge about what’s been done before, what didn’t work, what did work — there’s a sense that you want to give back.’”