Fun (?) Numbers About Work

Some encouraging, and some surprising, numbers from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project (comments f/WG):

Older adults are staying in the workforce longer, while younger people are delaying their careers.  (Are young people having trouble entering a workforce dominated by oldsters?)

Most older people aren’t keeping jobs because they need the money, but because they want to work.  Only about half who retire do so because they want to; the rest go either because of health reasons or because they feel “forced out.”  (Have older people reached some sort of work nirvana that younger workers should envy?)

Younger people are staying in school longer, or are discouraged at not being able to find a job.  In 2000, 66% of young people (aged 16-24) had jobs.  Now it is 57%.  (Because they’re not looking hard enough?  Because everyone tells them, Stay in school?  Because older people are hogging all the jobs?)

Unlike older workers, younger & middle-aged workers say they work primarily for the money.  (Giving younger workers something to look forward and/or aspire to–working for the love of it!)

59% of women work; 72% of men work.  (Huh.  Thought these numbers would be higher.)

This 72% figure for men is a new low.  In fact, the proportion of American men who work has dropped every decade since the Bureau of Labor Statistics starting keeping records in 1948.  (Yikes.  What are men doing instead?  Thought: the proportion of women who work has increased since 1948.  Are they supporting the men?)

In this recession men lost two-thirds of all the jobs that were lost.  (Because firing men, who make higher salaries, saves more money?  Because women are more valuable workers?  More likely: industries dominated by men were hardest hit by recession.)

Most people prefer a job that offers high security over one that pays more but is less secure.  (There will actually be some people who are surprised at this.)

However, nine of ten adults say they are either completely or mostly happy with their jobs.  (In light of all the above, this is a hard number to believe!  But it’s a nice thought…..)


  • Hi Karen,

    Great post and commentary.

    In the same report, I see that 93% of the growth in US Labor from 2006 to 2016 will be among workers 55+

    Wow. So the irony perhaps is that Baby Boomers are keeping jobs from their own children (Gen Y).



  • A. Reader says:

    Many interesting figures and your insights offer perspectives that not everyone, including myself, would see.

  • Melissa says:

    These are interesting trends.

    The second point reminded me of a man I knew in my hometown. He had been part of the top management of a local hospital. When he retired, he became a Wal-Mart greeter because he still wanted to do something, just not as intensive as his former job.

    Regarding people ages 16-24 being in jobs? Part of it could be the intensification of extra-curricular activities or the requirements at the HS and university levels for community service projects. Having worked in non-profits and seeing what the students need to do, I know the projects take up a lot of time. Who can carve out extra time to work?

    The fourth point is just sad.

    Rodney and I would agree with your conclusion explaining the fact that more men were laid off. The manufacturing industry was hammered, and the vast majority of those jobs are held by men.

    That’s all from me!

  • I know a woman who became an Admiral a year ago. She said she never would have made it if her husband hadn’t been so supportive, retired early, and taken care of the kids. He’s not alone – there’s a whole bunch of men working and consulting from home or serving in the role of Mr. Mom! In the case of my friend I think he did a great job as the main caretaker of the kids; they all turned out great. I also heard a female fighter pilot tell a similar story.

    “This 72% figure for men is a new low. In fact, the proportion of American men who work has dropped every decade since the Bureau of Labor Statistics starting keeping records in 1948. (Yikes. What are men doing instead? Thought: the proportion of women who work has increased since 1948. Are they supporting the men?)”