Only 15 percent of Americans age 45 or older looked for a job in the past year because of employment uncertainty, according to our AARP Bulletin poll published in September. It has been six years since the start of the Great Recession, but people are still uneasy about their current jobs. Confidence about job stability has improved since 2009, but fewer than half of those polled feel that their jobs are stable (49 percent now versus 39 percent in 2009). The poll included 1,019 people 45 and older.
Current employment figures among those 55 or older support these concerns. Unemployment for this group was 5.3 percent in September 2013 versus 3.2 percent in December 2007. And among people who lost their jobs, those age 55-plus were out of work an average of 55.4 weeks versus 20 weeks before the recession. The comparison is not exact because the Bureau of Labor Statistics changed the way it calculates weeks unemployed in January 2011, but the difference is still significant.
Confidence about job stability has improved since 2009, but fewer than half of those polled feel that their jobs are stable (49 percent now versus 39 percent in 2009).
Showing their willingness to get the job done, 25 percent of those ages 45 to 54 said they have increased their hours worked, which is almost double the figure (14 percent) for those 55 to 64. Their willingness to take on more hours can also be explained in part by the need for more money, as they are in the age group most likely to say they had their health plans reduced (18 percent); 14 percent said their employer had stopped matching 401(k) contributions. These folks are also most likely to have taken a second job (9 percent).
With these job changes in mind, as well as the normal family obligations faced by many people 45 to 54—car payments, mortgages, school expenses, even caregiving for parents—it’s no wonder this age group is at its lowest point on the happiness “U” curve. While happiness goes up in your 60s, today this is less likely to be related to being retired and sitting on the porch in a rocker. It is increasingly likely to be due to switching gears—where that second job becomes a second career and, one hopes, a satisfying one.
Check out the fact sheet below for our latest look at older workers’ job experiences.
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Becky Gillan is the senior vice president of AARP Research and is focused on fostering understanding of the interests and concerns of people age 50-plus and their families. Before coming to AARP, she served as the vice president of Global Market Research & Guest Satisfaction for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. In her spare time, she likes visiting her niece in Ohio, gardening and collecting American art and antiques.