top of page

Successful Aging: What does the job market look like for older Americans?

Q. I understand the employment rate for those in my age bracket – the 55 and older — is just 2.7 percent compared to 3.7 percent for the overall population. That sounds like good news. Does that mean I should have a good chance of finding a job at age 62? I was previously a manager in the foodservice industry. E.S.

Dear E.S.

I wish it were that easy. Here’s a little about that statistic for the 55 and older. The usual employment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is missing an important population. That is the discouraged worker. That’s the worker who has been looking for a job, cannot find one, becomes discouraged and drops out of the labor force. The good news is that in July 2019, 40.5 percent of those 55 and older were working. However, statistics will not guarantee employment.

Consider the following:

Ageism: Age discrimination in the workplace is alive and well. According to a 2018 AARP Survey of older adults, 61 percent of workers say that they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Among those respondents who were unemployed, almost three quarters said they had encountered age discrimination. The survey also found that women were more likely than men to have faced age bias in employment. Furthermore, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that one out of five complaints filed is for age discrimination.

Training: The number of jobs that require cognitive skills is increasing, growing from about one-quarter to one-third during the past 35 years. These include skills for reasoning, thinking, problem-solving and finding innovative solutions. That’s good news since age-related cognitive skills typically don’t significantly diminish until later age. The physical declines such as strength and reaction time typically occur at a faster rate. We may not have 80- year old adults climbing telephone poles while it is not unusual to having CEOs and even presidents well into their 70s.

Labor shortages in California: Here are the top five occupations most at risk of labor shortages between 2017 and 2020: Health diagnosing and treatment of patients; computer occupations; sales representatives; advertising, public relations and marketing specialists; and engineers. These shortages are similar to national trends; instead of a shortage of engineers, there is a shortage of motor vehicle operators (drivers).

Companies hiring older workers: AARP has signed up 1,000 employers who pledge to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age. That includes older workers. Companies that have taken this pledge include CVS Caremark, ACE Hardware, H&R Block and AT&T. For more employers hiring older workers, go to

So, what to do? Here are a few key tips for your job search. Consider the book “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills” by Kerry Hannon. It provides a valuable guide to all phases of the job search.

Hannon quotes four basic tips for a job search suggested by Laurie McCann, AARP Foundation senior litigation attorney.

Stay on top of your game: That means keeping up with technology and your field. Hannon adds the importance of being physically fit and looking and dressing the part.

Prepare for age-related questions: A potential employer may say you are over-qualified. You need an answer for that. Show your interest.

Explain that age doesn’t matter to you: That is, if the subject comes up. Emphasize your ability to work with younger workers and look forward to reciprocal learning relationships with them.

Don’t hide your age: Under federal law, an employer cannot ask your age. Never lie.

Here are a few more: Learn how to use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Be comfortable with computers, basic software programs, e-mail, texting and mobile technology. Be able to create an effective resume and conduct a successful interview. Network and let others know you are looking for a position. Consult some job search websites for the 50 and older group such as or Consider having a website or blog to demonstrate you are tech-savvy. And don’t forget to have a professional email address with your first and last name.

E.S., This sounds like a lot of work, and it probably is. Your effort will pay off. The statistics look good for opportunities – but they are only statistics. Best wishes on your search…and adventure.

bottom of page