For the first time ever, or at least since statisticians have been keeping track, there are more people in the job market who are older than 65 than those between 16 and 19. The numbers represented in the nearby graph show 12-month averages, so this is not a short-term accounting blip. The New York Times Economix blog explains:

So what accounts for the flip?

For one, the baby boom generation has been aging. There was always a certain percentage of older people who would continue to work; even if that percentage stayed absolutely constant, as the overall pool of older people grew, the number of those older people who sought to work would also grow.

Additionally, the job market has been shifting away from defined-benefit pensions and toward defined-contribution pension plans. … This shift into more variable pension income, plus Americans’ general preference for investing in stocks rather than less volatile options like bonds and annuities, plus the sharp declines in equities since the financial crisis have all conspired to make it more difficult for older people to retire. Hence, older people are having to work longer.

Meanwhile, teenagers have been having an especially rough time in the job market partly because the economy is still weak.

People are living longer, and they’re living as elderly people longer. It’s natural that our traditional retirement age of 65 doesn’t make as much sense when people are living to 85 and older. And as the age distribution flattens, with as many young people as elderly, it seems that this “flip” is more than a temporary change.


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