Fewer Jobs Added in August but Labor Force Participation of the 55+ Holds Steady

Fewer Jobs Added in August but Labor Force Participation of the 55+ Holds Steady



Employment overview

Though hiring slowed in August, the labor force participation rate for those ages 55 and older rose slightly to 40.2 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August Employment Situation Report found that the overall labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 62.9 percent and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.4 percent with 7.1 million unemployed persons.  Jobs were added in manufacturing, construction, professional and technical services, health care, and mining. While the unemployment rate for those ages 55+ was unchanged in August (3.2 percent), the percentage of jobseekers 55+ who are long-term unemployed (i.e., looking for 27 or more weeks) declined to 30.5 percent.

Spotlight on Job Openings and Labor Turnover

Along with various other measures of unemployment, the BLS also tracks job openings, hiring, and job separations.  Job separations encompass all employees who separated from the payroll during the month and can result from a number of different actions. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Separations initiated by the employee include quits, where employees leave voluntarily.  Other separations include retirements, transfers to other locations, deaths, and separations due to employee disability.

These data are collected monthly in the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report.  The data are seen as a useful barometer of job market efficiency.   The changes in the JOLTS data reflect shifts in both the business cycle and in industry growth or decline.  The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening is a key aspect of the JOLTS report because it indicates to what extent there are labor shortages or surpluses.  For example, the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.9 when the Great Recession began in December 2007 but jumped to 6.6 at the height of the unemployment crisis in July 2009.  The most recent JOLTS report indicated that there were 6.2 million job openings in June 2017 and that the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was only 1.1.

The JOLTS data suggest that some employers may be experiencing difficulty filling their vacancies because the ratio of open jobs to jobseekers is currently quite low. In addition, many available applicants may not have the needed skills to perform all required job tasks.  A dearth of qualified applicants could be one reason why employers have reported increases in the time it takes to hire new workers. Many positions require higher skill levels and these jobs typically take longer to fill.

For more details on this month’s employment numbers, check out the August Employment Data Digest, PPI’s monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over.

Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers age 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.

 



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Long-Term Unemployment Down for People Ages 55+ in July

Long-Term Unemployment Down for People Ages 55+ in July



 

Employment overview

 

While many employment indicators for the 55+ were unchanged from June, the July 2017 Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that more people ages 55+ were employed and a lower percentage of jobseekers ages 55+ were experiencing long-term unemployment.  Overall, the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, down from 231,000 (revised) in June.  The unemployment rate for those ages 55 and older was virtually unchanged at 3.2 percent with 1.2 million of the 55+ unemployed.  The labor force participation rate for the 55+ was also unchanged at 40.1 percent.

 

Spotlight on employee tenure

 

With unemployment at a 16-year low and many employers concerned about skills shortages, organizations are putting a renewed emphasis on retaining their best employees for as long as possible. An attribute often ascribed to older workers is employer loyalty, best expressed through longer job tenure.  BLS data has shown that older workers do indeed stay with their employers longer compared with their younger counterparts. The most recent data on overall median tenure (the point at which half of all wage and salary workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) was 4.2 years in January 2016. This was a decline from 4.6 years in January 2014.

 

Median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years). A greater percentage of older workers also had been with their employers for at least a decade compared with younger workers. Workers ages 60 to 64 were particularly likely to have long tenures. Fifty-five percent of workers in this age range were with their employers for a decade or more.  Meanwhile, only 13 percent of workers ages 30 to 34 and 24 percent of workers ages 35 to 39 had tenures of 10 years or more.

 

Many factors can influence job tenures. Education levels appear to influence tenure, with individuals with lower levels of education typically also having lower median tenures.  The industry and occupational mix within the economy can also be a factor. For example, public sector workers, which are more likely to include older individuals, had more than double the median tenure of private-sector workers in 2016. Further, workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure, at 5.1 years, while food service workers had the lowest median tenure, at only 1.9 years. Other factors beyond the worker’s control, like widespread layoffs that change with the business cycle, can affect job tenures as well.

 

Because longer tenure is associated with age, the aging of the workforce could influence tenure rates in the years ahead.

 

For more details on this month’s employment numbers, check out the July Employment Data Digest, PPI’s monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over.

 

Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers age 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.

 



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Unemployment of Workers Ages 55+ Edges Up in June Despite Strong Jobs Growth

Unemployment of Workers Ages 55+ Edges Up in June Despite Strong Jobs Growth



Employment overview

The economy added 222,000 jobs last month, up from 152,000 (revised) in May according to the June Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Though the number of jobs increased, more people, such as previously discouraged workers or new graduates, joined the labor force, edging the unemployment rate up slightly to 4.4. percent.  Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for those ages 55 and older was 3.2 percent with 1.2 million of the 55+ unemployed.  The labor force participation rate for the 55+ also rose slightly to 40.1 percent.

Spotlight on older workers working part-time

In June 2017, there were approximately 7.4 million people ages 55 and over who were working part-time (i.e. working fewer than 35 hours per week) compared with 27.8 million who were working full-time. The number of people ages 55 and over that work part-time more than doubled, from approximately 3.4 million in 1986 to 7.4 million in 2017. Of those, approximately 3.5 million were ages 65 and older.

The increased number of older workers in part-time jobs partly reflects the overall growth in the older worker population.  For many people working past traditional retirement age, part-time work offers the financial rewards and social interaction of a job while also providing more flexibility and free time than full-time work.

Reasons older workers give for working part-time vary.  Individuals at or beyond full retirement age (66+) are most likely to say they are working part-time due to “retirement and/or the Social Security earnings limit” (these two reasons are treated as one category in the BLS Current Population Survey).  One-quarter of those ages of 50 to 65 cite caregiving responsibilities as the reason they are working part time. Other reasons individuals in this age category report they are working part-time involve economic conditions (19 percent), such as not being able to secure full-time employment, while 8 percent said they are working part-time due to health or medical limitations.

While many part-time jobs will continue to be concentrated in lower-wage occupations, high-wage occupations sometimes offer part-time work opportunities. In industries where skills shortages are a growing problem, employers may create more high-wage part-time jobs as a way to attract highly-skilled older workers.

For more details check out the June Employment Data Digest, PPI’s monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over.

 

Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers age 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.

 



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