NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Older Workers Could Close Labor Shortages

January 25, 2000

In recent years, the U.S. labor force participation rate has risen -- from 63.8 percent in 1980 to 67.1 percent currently. While women have been working at ever-increasing rates, a closer look shows that a lot of middle-aged and older men have dropped out of the labor force.

If older men kept working at the same rates as they did in 1980, the U.S. could add 3.6 million experienced workers to the labor pool, says financial writer Scott Burns.

According to Burns,

  • If the labor force participation rate of men 45 to 54 years of age rose from the 88.4 percent rate projected for this year to the 91.2 percent rate of 1980, we would add about 2.5 million men to the labor pool.
  • If the rate for men 55 to 64 rose from the projected 66 percent to the 72.1 percent rate of 1980, we would add almost 700,000 workers.
  • And if the participation rate for men in the 65 to 75 age group returned to 1980 levels, we could add about 400,000 workers.

With December 1999 Labor Department figures showing that the U.S. now has only 5.7 million people unemployed and a meager 4.1 percent national unemployment rate, brining back these workers could prevent labor shortages and restrain wage inflation.

Source: Scott Burns, "Former Workers Could Cure Labor Pool Blues," Dallas Morning News, January 25, 2000.


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