Older Workers Face Career Woes Even in a Strong Economy

As workers get older, their employment becomes increasingly difficult to maintain even in a generally prosperous economic climate. This is according to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, and recently highlighted by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.

Workers over the age of 50 have a higher likelihood of encountering an involuntary job separation which either led to a long-duration bout of unemployment, or that reduced weekly earnings by 50 percent or more for at least two years, according to the study.

“Many older workers experienced more than one such job separation,” the study reads. “Factoring in workers who separated because of poor health, family caregiving responsibilities, or other personal reasons, we find that about two thirds of workers involuntarily separated from their jobs at some point after age 50. Involuntary separations were common throughout the country and affected older workers in all industries and demographic groups.”

Particularly over the last 25 years, the study finds that over half of older Americans employed in stable jobs have found themselves pushed out of their employment at some point late in their careers, calling into question the notion that older, experienced workers can remain in a job with stability until they choose to retire.

Key takeaways from the study include that older workers often cannot recover the lost income when they lose a job late in life even if they find a new position, Hispanics and African-Americans are often hardest hit among older workers who lose a job, incidents of forced retirements were maintained even after the economic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, and 4 in 10 respondents felt they were effectively and prematurely forced into retirement.

As age increases, so does a likelihood of being nudged or pushed into retirement, according to the data. “The researchers took a snapshot of a two-year period and found that 6 percent of workers in their early 50s had a bout of unemployment during that short time,” observed the Center for Retirement Research. “This rises to nearly 30 percent when people hit their mid-60s.”

The data is largely sourced from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), organized and conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which refreshes the data gleaned from the respondent pool on a regular basis.

Read the full study at the Urban Institute, and the Center for Retirement Research’s blog on its findings.

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