2019 Predictions and Trends For Employment of Older Workers

By Gary A. Officer

It’s no secret the U.S. economy is booming creating the strongest employment market in years. Business and consumer confidence is up, as is employee satisfaction.[1] Unemployment is down to 3.7%, the lowest rate since 1969.[2] Over 209,000 formally unemployed workers are joining the labor force for each month.[3] Employers currently have 7.1 million unfilled jobs. Even if all of the 6 million people currently unemployed had all the right skills, which most do not, over a million jobs would still go unfilled.[4]

The job market pendulum has swung the job seekers’ way, but what does this mean for the millions of 50+ Americans who want to work but have faced challenges in America’s youth-oriented employment market?

At Senior Service America, we annually train thousands of older workers to reenter the workforce and advance their careers. This affords us a unique perspective and exposes emerging trends and predictions that are noteworthy for employers, cities, and older workers in 2019.

1.  The growing talent shortage will have more employers taking a look at 50+ workers

With many jobs and few qualified candidates, U.S. employers are increasingly turning to 50+ Americans. Of the 61 million[5] 50+ Americans, about a third of them (20 million[6]) are not currently working. What is compounding this is the number of young adult employees, age 18-29, is decreasing. In only 5 years, the younger employee population will sustain a decline, so employers are already looking for other talent sources.

2.  Increased training of managers to manage 50+ workers

As hiring increases, more companies are actively training their managers to manage 50+ workers.  The early movers found a generational divide between many Gen X managers and their Baby Boomer subordinates.  In fact this was satirized in the Robert DeNiro movie, The Intern.  But for employers hiring older workers, this is no laughing matter.

The upside is that with training, employers are gaining unforeseen benefits that generational diversity brings such as  the combination of emotional maturity from older workers with the new ideas of younger workers.  Another example of a training need is how younger and 50+ workers are often motivated by different things.  Where younger workers may be focused on advancement, 50+ may place more value in stability, working as part of a team, and feeling a sense of usefulness. Smart managers learn to leverage these differences to motivate not just their 50+ but all their employees.

Training helps managers overcome the tendency to subconsciously view their 50+ employees as “Mom” or “Dad” authority figures. This can result in a manager giving too much deference or feeling they must exert dominance over their 50+ subordinate.  The managers who can maintain an even keel and provide their 50+ employees with the same level dignity, respect and authority are the ones who will benefit from the dedication, experience and commitment they get in return.

3.  Entirely new, unexpected industries will look to older workers

50+ working in healthcare, retail, food service and other expected industries would not surprise most. But many unexpected industries are tapping into 50+ workers to support their growth.  For example, the security industry has embraced generational diversity in their hiring, with 50+ workers accounting for half of their new hires at some security companies.  The increased perception and emotional maturity, commonly found in older workers, are ideal for front-desk security roles required at most office buildings in America.

Other industries are affording opportunities for retired older workers to continue on a part-time basis.  A good example of this is older accountants and CPAs doing part-time work.  And emerging industries are looking to train older workers in technology and manufacturing to support their growth.

4.  Employer-driven workforce development will increase

Many industries and companies have found the traditional labor market simply cannot support their need for trained workers.  In these cases, many employers are creating “paid internships” and “train to work” programs, which allow  older workers to earn while they learn their required job skills.

Increasingly at Senior Service America, we are approached by employers and industry on how to source and architect these workforce development programs.

The best example of this is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).  It is the only federal program targeted to help low-income older workers. Each year, SCSEP enables thousands of 55+ workers each year to earn and learn while working in local programs serving their community.

5.  Veteran employment shifts more focus to older pre 9/11 veterans

Since the War on Terror, we’ve seen the “Sea of Goodwill” increase efforts to train and hire the post 9/11 veterans that bear the deepest scars of the current conflict.  However, this unintentionally has created a raft of available employment programs in support of older veterans, such as those that served in Desert Storm.

Driven by a need to serve greater numbers and a recognition of this unintended disparity, more veteran non-profits are shifting their focus to older veterans.  This trend will surge in 2019.

6.  Increased layoffs of 50+ workers is now a problem and an opportunity

Older workers are increasingly being forced out of their long-term employment.  A recent study found that 28 percent of stable, longtime employees sustain at least one damaging layoff by their employers between turning 50 and leaving work for retirement.[7]

Being suddenly unemployed  makes it very difficult  for the older worker to seek new employment, much less address their immediate financial needs and plan for their retirement.  But for thoughtful employers, recently laid off employees offer a unique opportunity to source skilled talent.  In retail, HR departments have long targeted store closings to source skilled workers.  These unwanted “early retirements” of 50+ workers are identifiable and targetable by employers.

In summary, 2019 will see an increased focus on older workers for a number of different economic reasons.  Employers, cities, and 50+  workers that recognize these trends stand to benefit from a talent and economic standpoint for years to come.

About the author. Gary A. Officer is President and CEO of Senior Services America, Inc., the second largest administrator of the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Through its partnerships, SSAI has helped SCSEP get over 700,000 older Americans, veterans included, into the workforce whether for the first time or to go back to work post-retirement.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-08-31/why-the-u-s-economy-is-having-a-boom
[2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
[3] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
[4] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
[5] https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk
[6] https://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#age
[7] https://www.propublica.org/article/older-workers-united-states-pushed-out-of-work-forced-retirement
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