Boomers are the Economy’s “Energizer Bunnies”

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Boomers are the Economy’s “Energizer Bunnies”

As the Trends editors predicted three decades ago, Boomers are remaining more invasive and persistent than any prior generation.  That means they remain healthy, active workers, consumers and citizens far longer than prior generations.  And that’s particularly true for those at higher socio-economic levels.

When the unemployment rate dropped to below 5 percent in 2017, there was widespread belief that the economy was close to, if not at, full employment.  Full employment means that almost everyone who is willing and able to work, is in the labor force and able to find a job.  Competition for workers between firms would then lead to higher wages and inflation.  It seemed unlikely that the unemployment rate would dip much further, or that job gains would continue at a strong pace beyond that point.  Yet, the unemployment rate has continued to decline even as more workers have continued to enter the labor force. The January 2019 jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics defied expectations. The unemployment rate stood at 4 percent and the economy added a fantastic 304,000 new jobs. Where are these new workers coming from? The answer is quite surprising. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that over the past year, nearly 40 percent of all employment gains were driven by Americans aged 55 and older.  Going back further, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis notes that all of the 17 million job net increase in employment between 2000 and 2017 was among workers aged 55 and older.  And the labor supply is continuing to boom because older workers are continuing to participate in the labor market longer, and at higher rates than almost anyone forecast.

Labor force participation has been a continuing focus of concern, particularly since the Great Recession.  As workers lost jobs and became too discouraged to look for new work, slack in the economy grew.  Therefore, some increases in labor force participation were anticipated as the economy recovered, and workers were slowly absorbed back into the labor market, often into full-time jobs with decent pay.  This is documented in a recent become a paid subscriber for full access.
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