Boomers’ Employment Options Improving

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It’s not difficult to find baby boomers out in the job market who will tell you that they have fewer employment options than they used to.

The turning point occurs around age 55. According to a recent study, only 4 percent of people in their early 50s who find a new job are moving into what the researchers label as “old-person jobs” – that is, jobs in occupations that disproportionately employ older workers. The share in these jobs increases sharply, to 13 percent, by the time they reach their late 50s and to 22 percent in their early 60s.

Given the more difficult job market, this cloud has a silver lining. Older workers are actually better off today than they were in the late 1990s and have experienced a “broadening of occupational opportunities,” concluded researchers Matt Rutledge, Steve Sass, and Jorge Ramos-Mercado of the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog.

Specifically, the situation has improved for two of the three age groups they analyzed. The share of new hires who are in their early 50s and end up in old-person jobs has fallen by more than two-thirds since the late 1990s. For people in their early 60s, it has fallen by nearly one-fifth.

Various possible reasons for the improvement include an aging labor force – managers included. As managers age, they may become more amenable to hiring older workers.

The study also found that things have improved for both educational groups: those who have spent at least some time in college and those who never attended college.

College-educated women between 50 and 64 have made the most progress: 8 percent were in old-person jobs in the early 1990s but only 3 percent are today. One reason could be the particularly large increase in the number of women who’ve received college degrees or professional training, which gives them more of an edge over younger job seekers.

While it’s still true that the job market becomes less welcoming as people age, it’s better than it used to be.

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I’m sure there are instances where maturity and experience is of value, however I have seen firsthand the ageism effect, and I would think is prevalent in numerous companies.

The older applicant must appear high energy, motivated, in excellent health, confident and knowledgeable in order to even be considered against an applicant 25 years younger. I believe it is in the DNA of the company culture how accepting a senior coworker as a new hire would be.

Barb Wollan

I’m curious what counts as an “old-person job?” The classic “WalMart greeter” comes to mind, but beyond that? Can you elaborate?

    Amy (Asst. Dir. of Comm., CRR)

    You might also be interested in this New York Times piece that created an interactive bubble map by occupation (based on this paper).

Kim Blanton

Barb – yes, I should’ve included some examples in the blog!

If you look at Table 3 in the research paper, the occupations listed at the top are more heavily tilted toward older workers.

They include night watchman, substitute teacher, crossing guard, taxi drivers (some that I mention are in the table some are not). Here’s the full paper if you’d like to look at the list.

Thanks for reading! Kim (blogger)


I think society needs to think a little more carefully about how to fully utilise the knowledge and talent in the Boomer population. Surely our education system should be stuffed with this knowledge to be passed onto the next generation. Boomers should also be willing to pivot and change career to something that can better use their skillset.

Harold Ingmire

The older applicant must not act “old.” Your appearance is important. I have recruited and managed for almost 40 years, and the biggest problem with workers is lack of technical skills in the field they are looking at (even basic PC software skills). One issue you must face is your salary. If you have the skills and experience and want to be paid for that compared to someone with half of your experience, you better be able to sell it. Don’t be your own worst enemy.

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