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In 2022, 8.2% of people 75 and older were part of the labor force. Their colleagues included 18.4% of the Americans between ages 70 and 74, and 33.3% of those from 65 to 69.

How many Americans over 65 work?

In 2022, 19.2% of Americans over 65 participated in the labor force, according to the Current Population Survey from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By October 2023, that ticked up to 19.3%.

How has labor force participation for older Americans changed?

The labor force participation rate for Americans 65 and older decreased by 7.8 percentage points from 27% to 19.2% between 1948 and 2022. While the participation rate was lower in 2022, there were more people in the labor force in this age cohort in 2022 (10.9 million people) compared to 1948 (2.9 million people) due in part to population growth.

During that period, labor force participation increased by 13.8 percentage points for Americans aged 65 to 69, 8.2 percentage points for people from 70 to 74, and 4 percentage points for folks 75 and older.

Why are Americans working later in life?

Numerous factors could contribute to Americans working later in life, including increased life expectancy, decreased personal savings, and the growing gap between labor productivity and wages.

Life expectancy

The life expectancy of Americans has increased from 73.7 years in 1980 to 77.5 in 2022. The required retirement age to qualify for full social security benefits has also increased over time: People born between 1943 and 1954 can retire at age 66, while Americans born after 1960 have to wait another year, to age 67.

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Economic factors

Some older Americans may delay retirement to maintain their standard of living. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showed that average personal savings dropped from 11.3% of monthly earnings to 3.7% between 1959 and 2023. The savings decrease coupled with the relative increase in cost of living may drive some Americans to keep working.

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Slow wage growth over time may also contribute to older Americans inability to retire earlier. Since the 1970s, labor productivity has grown at a faster rate than real hourly compensation, meaning gains in workforce efficiency have outpaced pay gains.

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Current Population Survey
Personal Saving Rate