Hard to Decipher 55+ Job Market in 2022
The 55+ Job Market in 2022 appears to be pretty rosy if you read the statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They certainly look better than they did when I wrote a similar post in July of 2021.
However, we know that if you dig into the numbers, not everything is rosy.
In this post, I want to focus on 3 aspects of the 55+ job market:
- Unemployment at the macro level has improved a lot from a year ago
- The retirement surge has ended and many are unretiring
- The entrepreneurship surge has continued but slowed
May of 2022 Unemployment Data
Let’s look at the facts and nothing but the facts … well the BLS data in reality.
The 55 years and older unemployment rate has leveled out at 2.7% in April and May of 2022. This is roughly the same as it was in 2019 but down significantly from 13.6% in April of 2020. It looks pretty good right??
However, the average length of unemployment for someone 55 and older is stuck at over 30 weeks. Women do a little better than men and the median value is much better for both groups at 11-13 weeks. For those of you who do not understand the mean (average) versus median, a media value of 11 weeks means 50% of all unemployed gain employment in less than 11 weeks and 50% take longer.
Unlike past economic downturns, those 55 years and older were much more adversely affected but have recovered. Similar, to past economic downturns those 55 years and older if they go unemployed stay unemployed longer.
The 55+ Job Market in 2022 looks pretty good. … Right? Well, unless you are unemployed.
The Retirement Surge has Ended and Many are Unretiring
We now know from a recently published report called No “Great Resignation” for Older Workers—Mass Job Loss Drove the Retirement Surge by Schwartz Center for Economic Policy analysis, what exactly drove the retirement surge. It was many older workers who suffered a year or more of unemployment. They gave up trying to find employment and retired.
Many came from the service sectors where they had to work in person. I suggest you listen to my podcast interview with the authors of that report.
In a normal year, we expect to see about 2 million people retire in the United States. During the pandemic, we saw an additional 2.4 million people retire. It now appears that about 1.5 million are returning to the workplace.
Some of these retirees are returning because they feel it is safe to be back in the workplace. Others are returning because they were not financially prepared to retire.
There is no question in my opinion that inflation has driven many back to the job market. You may want to check out my interview with Mark Miller I did on the retirement surge earlier this year.
It appears that the retirement surge we saw in 2021 has come to an end and we are returning to a more normal rate of retirement.
The Entrepreneurship Surge has Continued but Slowed
The pandemic created a surge of new companies throughout the US economy. I wrote about this phenomenon in the post Record Retirements, Quitting & New Businesses Starts in 2021 – What the Heck? in June of 2021.
For those in the 55+ job market, many started businesses as an alternative to retiring, i.e. they could not find work so they started their own business.
We can see in the census department data that new business starts have slowed but continue at much higher levels than it was pre-pandemic.
What I have not found is data on business formation by those 55+ in 2022 versus earlier periods.
Time will tell whether the surge of entrepreneurship will continue.
What Does This All Mean for Those in the 55+ Job Market?
If you are in the 55+ job market you can find “a” job. I have seen multiple articles that report employment is approaching pre-pandemic levels but the jobs being hired for are different from the jobs lost. Also, the jobs are not in the same places.
I posted on my LinkedIn feed a part of an article in the Austin American Statesman. In Texas, Houston has lost a significant number of jobs while Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth have gained jobs.
This is all very difficult to decipher.
Back in the middle part of the last decade, when there was a downturn in the oil market, a lot of jobs were lost. When the market recovered a lot of the jobs did not return. It was a jobless recovery as the oil industry figured out how to do more by implementing technology. I suspect we will see more of that.
If you are long-term unemployed and struggling to get back into the job market. You may have a couple of choices:
- Move to a better job market. This has never been attractive to those of us who are in the 55+ job market.
- Pivot to something else. Now may be the time to re-evaluate what you are doing.
My wife and I moved to Mexico way back in 2018. We had lived in Austin, Texas for over 40 years. I then read the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. The premise of the book is often old things need to end for new things to begin. It got me to question why was I still living in Austin.
Austin was not the funky place I moved to in 1978. It was the most affordable housing market in the US back in the 1970s. It is neither of those today.
Now may be the time to do some serious re-evaluation on either where you live or what you do.
What are your next steps?Marc Miller