IN SUMMARY: Employment for people 55 and older dropped 209,000 last month, the biggest such decline since February 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The monthly employment number tends to be volatile and the broader trend has been positive for older workers, experts say.
While hiring in the U.S. rebounded in March, baby boomers who are still in the workforce are not doing so great. Employment for people age 55 and older dropped 209,000 last month, the biggest such decline since February 2015 when 251,000 jobs were cut for the age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While the decline was notable, a one-month change hardly makes a trend. This age group still has the lowest unemployment level among all cohorts, with a 2.7% jobless rate in March unchanged from February. The overall unemployment rate held steady at 3.8% in March.
Older Americans are productive.
Older Americans can offer employers exemplary skills and experience as well as an exceptional work ethic. The business case for hiring, retaining, and supporting older workers is strong. Leading employers have taken it upon themselves to institute policies and practices to harness the strengths of aging workers. From providing employees with ergonomic office equipment and assistive technologies to establishing inter-generational training programs, family caregiver support initiatives, and flexible paths towards retirement, large and small employers who recognize and value the talent of aging workers are taking steps to respond to one of the fastest growing demographic groups at work, older adults.
Over the next decade, 43% of America’s workforce will reach age 65 and be eligible for retirement. This group of workers is the most educated, technically competent of any labor group ever available to American industry in history. Collectively, they represent an enormous bank of intellectual and institutional knowledge gained over a half century of technological advancement. Today, as a group, Baby Boomers — people born between 1946 and 1964 — form the largest trained pool of potential future employees available to American businesses.
Myths About Older Employees
1. Older Employees and Retirees Aren’t Interested in Work
Many older workers wish to continue working or return to the work force when they discover that their retirement benefits and Social Security payments, pension and profit-sharing plans, and personal savings are insufficient to maintain the lifestyle they wanted or anticipated. Others miss the social interaction of the workplace, while yet others find that hobbies and charitable work alone are unsatisfying.
2. Older Employees Can’t Handle the Physical Demands of a Job
While it is true that some jobs may be physically demanding, the majority of tasks in a modern office or factory can be performed by an older worker. For example, in its Dingolfing, Germany plant, BMW uses older workers on an auto assembly line with minimal accommodations for their age (larger computer screens, special shoes, and chairs for some operations), while L.L. Bean, the outdoor retailer, recruits retired workers for seasonal jobs in their call centers, distribution facility, and flagship store.
3. Older Workers Are Too Expensive
A retired worker returning to the workforce is often less expensive than a younger worker:
- Lower Cost of Benefits. Retirees are generally covered by Medicare and therefore don’t require coverage in expensive company health insurance plans, which can add 25% or more to an employer’s cost.
- Part-Time Status. Older workers are more willing and often prefer to work on a part-time basis, rather than full-time. As a consequence, an employer has great flexibility in scheduling work hours with or without job sharing.
A new study from North Carolina State University found that older programmers knew a wider variety of topics than younger colleagues did, answered questions better and were more adept at certain newer systems.
The greatest asset older workers bring is experience — their workplace wisdom. They’ve learned how to get along with people, solve problems without drama and call for help when necessary.
Originally published at newmanagementandhr.com on April 10, 2019.