Industries With the Most Unemployed Older Workers

Male-dominated sectors have seen the most job loss among older workers since the recession began

By + More

Americans laid off after age 55 often aren’t yet financially prepared to retire, but many are having difficulty finding new jobs. The unemployment rate for adults age 55 and older was 5.9 percent in January, the highest level since 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although lower than the overall employment rate of 7.6 percent last month, 1.7 million adults age 55 and older were unemployed, twice as many as in November 2007, just before the recession began.

Older men are considerably more likely to lose their jobs than older women, with unemployment rates of 6.4 percent and 5.5 percent respectively in January. Experienced workers in male-dominated industries have been hit especially hard. Unemployment rates tripled in agriculture and doubled in construction and manufacturing between November 2007 and December 2008, according to an Urban Institute analysis. The finance industry also experienced a substantial increase in unemployment. The most modest job losses among older workers were in the health services, education, and public administration sectors – professions women are often more likely to choose.

Education provides some insulation from unemployment. Older men who did not complete high school have experienced a 6 percentage point spike in unemployment since the recession began compared to only a 1.4 percentage point increase for male college graduates. These industries have seen the most job loss among older workers since the recession began:

Industries With the Most Unemployed Older Workers

                                                    Unemployment Rate

Industry                                     Nov. 2007          Dec. 2008

Construction                              3.9                       11.2

Manufacturing                          3.4                       7.7

Agriculture                                 1.9                       6.9

Hospitality                                  5.1                       6.3

Retail trade                                3.6                       5.5

Professional services               3.3                       5.4

Transportation and utilities  2.8                      5.2

Information                               2.3                      5.0

Finance                                      1.5                        4.3

Mining                                        0.0                       3.6

Health services                        2.5                       2.8

Education                                  1.5                       2.5

Public administration            1.6                       2.3

Other services                          3.2                       1.9

Note: Age 55 and older workers

Source: Urban Institute calculations