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Amid Downturn, More Older Americans Employed Than Ever Before

Washington Post (01/13/12) Whoriskey, Peter

The number of younger workers is declining, but more people older than 55 are employed than ever before, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor experts say one of the primary economic forces behind the surge of older workers is the increasing fear among older Americans that they lack the means to support their retirement needs.

The shift in retirement financing away from reliance on company pensions toward the adoption of 401(k) plans and other personal savings—combined with the recession—has dramatically increased the incentives to work longer. To the surprise of some experts, the need for older people to work has been strong enough to overwhelm the effects of the recession, which has thinned out the ranks of the employed among other generations. The number of people older than 55 who are working has actually risen by 3.1 million, or 12%, since the beginning of the recession. By contrast, the number of people between the ages of 25 and 54 who are working has decreased by 6.5 million, for a drop of 6.5%.