The Labor Force Participation Rate and Increase in Older Workers

by Lynn Wallis

December 4, 2019

Oregon’s labor force participation rate (LFPR) for all ages reached 62.3 percent in 2018. This was 6.5 percentage points lower than in 2000. When we look at LFPR by age group, since the year 2000 the LFPR among 16 to 24 year olds fell by 13.4 percentage points. The 25 to 54 prime working age group’s LFPR fell by 2.6 percentage points. On the other hand, the LFPR among those age 55 and older actually grew by 2.7 percentage points, reaching 36 percent in 2018.

According to a report by United Income titled Older Americans in the Workforce, the LFPR for older workers is also increasing nationwide. The share of retirement-age people in the U.S. labor force has doubled since its all-time low in 1985. In February 2019, more than 20 percent of Americans aged 65 or older were working or looking for work. This is double the low rate of 10 percent of older workers who were in the labor force in 1985. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 13 million Americans aged 65 and older will be in the labor force by 2024.
Unlike the older workforce, the LFPR for 16 to 24 year olds has shown a sharp decline since 2000. According to Brookings Institute, there are many factors that are contributing to the decline in the younger age LFPR. Some factors include increased school enrollment, reduced demand for low-wage work, minimum wage hikes, and competition from older workers or immigrants.

Older Workers in Clackamas County

Since 1992, the number of older workers in Clackamas County, age 65 years and older, increased by 460 percent or by 8,115 workers, while the total number of workers in all age groups increased by a significantly lower rate of 59 percent. The percentage of older workers living in Clackamas County has grown from 1.9 percent in 1992 to 6.7 percent in 2018. According to AARP, employees age 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the workforce.
Reasons given for the increase in the number of older workers include:

  • Improved health of Americans aged 65 or older is resulting in more retirement-age people being able to continue to work.
  • Americans aged 65 and over have become more educated as a group with more than half having some sort of college degree. The more educated 65-and-over population generally have a higher LFPR.
  • Financial considerations – inadequate retirement savings and high health care costs are contributing to people working longer.

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