Job Changes at Older Ages: Effects on Wages, Benefits, and Other Job Attributes

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One way to manage the rapidly growing costs of supporting older Americans may be to increase labor supply at older ages. By delaying retirement and remaining at work, older Americans could produce more goods and services, promoting economic growth and contributing to income and payroll taxes that finance public services. However, questions persist about the quality of available jobs. This study examines older Americans’ employment opportunities by studying job changes at older ages.

The findings do not raise concerns about the quality of post-retirement jobs. Although these jobs did not generally pay very much, they were less stressful and more flexible than career jobs, and more than 9 in 10 people working in retirement said they enjoyed their jobs. The analysis supports the notion that older adults tend to use post-retirement jobs as bridges to complete withdrawal from the labor market.

However, the results suggest that people who lose their jobs at older ages often face special challenges in the labor market. Those able to find other employment generally ended up in different industries and occupations, earning much lower wages than on their former jobs. For example, about one-quarter of older men laid-off from long-term jobs earned hourly wages that were less than half as high as on their previous jobs. About 40 percent lost pension coverage and 25 percent lost health benefits. These findings suggest that as policymakers consider ways of encouraging work at older ages, they should pay special attention to the struggles of older displaced workers.