The Decline of Career Employment

Source: Alicia H. Munnell and Steven A. Sass, Center for Retirement Research, Issue Brief #8-14, September 2008

From the introduction:
With a contracting retirement income system and increased life expectancy, working longer has emerged as perhaps the most effective lever for improving retirement income security. More work at older ages should be entirely feasible for the bulk of the population, given that today’s workers are healthier and work is less onerous than in the past. Indeed, some indication that people might be willing to work longer comes from the fact that the century-long downward trend in the labor force participation of older men has clearly ceased, with participation rising slightly since the mid-1990s. But the changes to date fall far short of what is required to offset declining Social Security benefits and modest 401(k) balances – an increase in the average retirement age from the current 63 to an estimated 67.

The brief’s key findings are:
• Today only 46 percent of older male workers are still with their age-50 employer, down from 70 percent in the early 1980s.
• This drop in career employment means that more older workers face the challenge of finding a new job.
• These new jobs generally pay less and offer fewer benefits, but also are less stressful and more satisfying.
• Eventually job changing could encourage longer worklives by better matching employer and worker needs, but in the short term it is an impediment.

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