U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Labor Force Participation

In 2008, 13.3 percent of women and 21.5 percent of men aged 65 years and older were in the labor force (employed or not employed and actively seeking employment; data not shown). Among older women, labor force participation rates have increased substantially since the 1970’s. Between 1976 and 2008, labor force participation among women aged 65–69 years increased 77.2 percent, from 14.9 to 26.4 percent of the civilian, non-institutionalized population. Labor force participation among women aged 70 years and older has shown an even greater increase (85.4 percent) from 4.6 percent in 1976 to 8.1 percent in 2008. In comparison, men aged 65–69 years saw a 21.5 percent increase in labor force participation from 1976 to 2008, while men aged 70 years and older saw an increase of less than 3 percent.

As labor force participation among women has risen over the past 3 decades, the proportion of women receiving Social Security retired worker benefits has increased, as well. In 2006, 67.6 percent of women aged 65–69 years were receiving Social Security benefits for retired workers (as opposed to benefits for spouses of retired workers), an increase of 21.6 percent over the 55.6 percent of women receiving those benefits in 1990. Among women aged 70 years and older, 61.9 percent received retired worker benefits in 2006, compared to 55.9 percent in 1990; this represents an increase of 10.7 percent during that time period.

In 2006, 28.1 percent of women aged 65 and older received employer pensions or retirement savings. This is virtually unchanged since 1990, when 28.3 percent of women were receiving pensions or retirement savings. During this time, however, the proportion of men receiving retirement income from these sources decreased from 49.2 percent to 43.6 percent, possibly due in part to the decreasing reliance on traditional pension plans (data not shown).

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