As the U.S. economy continues its sluggish recovery from the recession and global economic crisis, more seniors and fewer young adults are in the workforce now compared with 2010. There has been a three-point increase since 2010 in the percentage of Americans aged 65 and older who are in the workforce — employed full time through an employer, self-employed, working part time, or unemployed but actively searching for work. At the same time, there has been a two-point decrease in the percentage of Americans aged 18 to 29 who are in the workforce.
These results are based on more than 350,000 interviews per year with U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Examining the changing composition of the workforce population since 2010 offers a glimpse into how the labor market has changed as the nation recovers from the 2008-2009 economic recession.
The recession contributed to significant household wealth reductions that Americans are still trying to recoup. Older Americans’ desire to replenish their retirement savings may partly explain the three-point increase in the percentage of seniors in the workforce, as more postpone retirement or former retirees re-enter it. In addition, Gallup’s employment data show that 12% of those 65 and older are employed full time for an employer or are self-employed full time in 2013 versus 9% in 2010, suggesting that older Americans may be keeping their full-time jobs.
For young adults, joblessness during the recession may have accelerated the trend of living at home with their parents, softening the effects of not having a paycheck. It is also possible that more young adults decided to continue their education in a challenging labor market. A Heritage Foundation study using U.S. Census Bureau data showed a 4.5% increase between 2007 and 2012 in the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who remained out of the workforce due to school.
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