U.S. Population Shifts; The Aging Workforce

Over the past decade, the U.S. population has shifted: The number of citizens ages 65 and older grew by more than a third to nearly 14 million.

That led to an increasing number of Americans older than 55 in the labor force. In 2016, 35.7 million workers fit that bill, a number projected to increase to 42.1 million by 2026, making aging workers nearly a quarter of the labor force, a report of a Senate Special Committee on Aging shows.

Two-thirds of workers 65 and older are employed full time, representing about 7 percent of the U.S. workforce, the Commonwealth Fund reports.

“We have a disproportionate percentage of our workforce that is aging out, exiting in less than 10 years,” said Jim Siplon, CEO of EDC Warren County.

One study of workers ages 55 and older found that by age 62, about a quarter were still in their careers, while 17 percent transitioned to another occupation, and more than half left the labor force entirely. By age 66, those working were as likely to be in a new occupation as they were to be in their original careers.

In a study by North Carolina State University, 57 percent of risk managers said losing talent and knowledge to retirement is a significant concern, with more than 70 percent saying the risk is significant in the next three to five years.

But Jim sees hope for the future.

“Some companies have figured out how to bring them back,” he said, citing Kirsh Helmets, a Schenectady-based company that employs veterans and people with disabilities.

“The company appeals to veterans in a way that produces a product that is aligned with what many of them have a hobby or lifestyle,” he said. “You’re on the cutting edge of Harley culture, which is a cool thing.”