A Difficult Return to the Workforce
The ongoing worker shortage makes this an ideal time for older adults to be a part of the workforce. Many want to work or have to work, but their return to the workforce over the past three years, since the start of the pandemic, has been inconsistent at best.
Labor participation rates have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels for older workers in general.
In February 2020, 40.4% of adults aged 55 and over were working. Today, just 38.5% of workers that same age group are part of the nation's workforce.
That's a net loss of 713,000 workers over three years.
Just as the pandemic was hitting, workers age 65 and older numbered around 1.12 million, a record high. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor participation rate for those older workers was 19.1% in February this year.
Today, it's 1.7 percentage points lower than the same month in 2020, which was at 20.8%.
This means there are 213,000 fewer workers aged 65 or older on employers' payrolls today.
For older women of color, the pre-pandemic workplace is challenging.
While Black and Hispanic women between the ages of 55 and 64 show an historic high labor force participation rate – 59.5% for Black women and 59.4% for Hispanic women – job quality is an issue. They continue to make up a disproportionate share of low-paying jobs with many facing erratic schedules and no benefits.
For women of color over the age of 64, the return to the workforce has been even more difficult. Only 15.8% of Black women in this age group are currently working, despite the need to work. This is down from 18.8% in February of 2022.
The labor force participation for Latinas over the age of 64 is still below the pre-pandemic levels – 16% in February this year compared to 16.3% in the same month three years ago. Again, the jobs they are now filling continue to be low-wage with erratic schedules.
As the Center for Law and Social Policy writes, "low-wage work creates barriers for women of color to achieve economic, racial, and gender equity."
of adult 55+ are now working, down from 40.4% pre-pandemic.