How Secure Is Employment at Older Ages?

This report assesses the precariousness of older adults’ employment. Using a nationally representative longitudinal survey, we follow workers from their early 50s to age 65 and beyond and measure the incidence of involuntary job separations. Our analysis focuses on employer-related separations as opposed to quits driven by poor health, family caregiving responsibilities, or other personal reasons. We tabulate separations caused by layoffs and business closings as well as quits motivated by job dissatisfaction and unexpected retirements. We consider only those separations that have serious financial consequences, leading to long spells of nonwork or substantially reduced earnings. Our results show that slightly more than one-half of adults in their early 50s who are working full time, full year with a long-term employer subsequently experienced an employer-related involuntary job separation. Only 1 in 10 of these involuntarily separated workers ever earned as much after their separation as before. Median household income fell 42 percent following an employerrelated involuntary job separation, and median household income at age 65 for workers who experienced an involuntary separation was 14 percent lower than for those who did not.