Unemployment rates remained high for the 47.5 million workers age 50 and older in 2010. More than half of unemployed workers this age were out of work for more than six months, and nearly a third were out of work for more than a year. Workers age 50 to 61—too young to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits—have fared worse than those age 62 and older since the Great Recession began in December 2007. This data brief shows recent trends in unemployment, employment, labor force participation, earnings, and unemployment duration.
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The labor force included 47.5 million adults age 50 and older in 2010, accounting for 31 percent of all workers,
up from 20 percent in 1996. Unemployment rates remained high for men and women 50 and older, and more
than half of unemployed workers this age were out of work for more than six months. Workers age 50 to 61—
too young to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits—have fared worse than those age 62 and older
since the recession began in late 2007. Men have also been hit harder than women.
How Many Were Unemployed?
In 2010, 2.0 million men age 50 and older were unemployed. Unemployment crept up for all men in 2010 but
generally increased more for older workers than younger workers.
- The unemployment rate for men age 50 to 61 increased to 8.3 percent from 7.8 percent in 2009 and
3.2 percent in 2007.
- The rate for men age 62 and older increased to 7.3 percent from 6.6 percent in 2009 and 3.3 percent
- Unemployment did not increase for men age 25 to 49.
Older men with limited education—especially those younger than 62—were much more likely to be unemployed
than college graduates. For example, the rate at age 50 to 61 for college graduates was 5.2 percent, compared
with 10.1 percent for high school graduates and 14.2 percent for those who did not complete high school.
The unemployment rate for women rose to 8.6 percent in 2010, from 8.1 percent in 2009. About 1.4
million women age 50 and older were unemployed in 2010. Nonetheless, unemployment was less common
among women 50 and older than younger women.
The unemployment rate for women age 50 to 61 was 6.5 percent, up from 6.0 percent in 2009 and 3.0
percent in 2007.
At age 62 and older, women's unemployment rate was 6.0 percent, unchanged since 2009 and exactly
twice the 2007 rate.
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