Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Most Older Workers Experience Involuntary Job Loss

If you think you've got a retirement plan, think again. A study by the Urban Institute finds that more than half of older full-time workers—seasoned employees—are likely to lose their job before they turn 65, with dire consequences for earnings, household income, and retirement savings.

Examining Health and Retirement Study data from 1992 to 2016, the Urban Institute researchers tracked full-time workers aged 51 to 54 who had been with their current employer or self-employed for at least five years. Respondents were followed from their early 50s until at least age 65 to determine how many experienced an involuntary job separation—defined as an employer-related separation that resulted in at least six consecutive months of nonemployment or that reduced weekly earnings by 50 percent or more for at least two years.

Most of these seasoned older workers lost their job at some point during those years, with some losing a long-term job more than once. Fully 56 percent experienced at least one employer-related involuntary job separation. Demographics do not explain these derailments. There were few differences in the percentage of workers who experienced an employer-related job separation by sex, race, Hispanic origin, education, industry, or region of the country. Losing a steady job appears to be the norm for workers as they age.

The consequences of this kind of job loss are ugly. Only 10 percent of those who lost their job ever again earned as much as they had on the job, report the researchers. Median household income fell 42 percent after the job separation, with little difference in the extent of decline by demographic characteristic. At age 65, those who had experienced a job separation had a significantly lower household income than those who did not have a job separation, whereas the incomes of the two groups at ages 51 to 54 were essentially the same.

"Employment becomes increasingly precarious as workers age," conclude the researchers. "The steady earnings that many people count on in their 50s and 60s to build their retirement savings and ensure some financial security in later life can vanish, upending retirement expectations and creating economic hardship."

Source: Urban Institute, How Secure is Employment at Older Ages?

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