Julie Diaz stepped down from her job as a legal secretary last spring. Her retirement ended up being short, and not so sweet.
Now 70, Diaz is working day and night. She took a job in March at Home Instead, a US home care provider for seniors. Diaz works 12-hour overnight shifts in Phoenix taking care of a 79-year-old with Parkinson’s disease and mild dementia.
After work, she takes a nap, then drives more than 50 miles to babysit her granddaughters. Diaz’s daughter recently separated from her husband and started working at a restaurant, so she needs childcare and help paying thousands in legal fees to her divorce lawyer.
Diaz exemplifies the push-and-pull dynamics resulting in more seniors in the US labor force. On the one hand, millions of job openings and desperate attempts from employers to hire are opening the playing field. On the other, a decades-high inflation rate and retirement savings gouged by the falling stock market are forcing many to work to make ends meet.
What started out as re-entering the workforce opportunistically soon became a necessity.
“We’re all suffering from high gas prices, grocery prices. I’ve never felt such hard times in my life,” Diaz said. “People are staying inside their homes as much as possible because we can’t afford to go out.”
The size of the US workforce is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, but the participation rate -- the share of the overall population that’s either actively working or looking for a job -- has remained stubbornly depressed. By some projections, older generations can help fill the void.
Those ages 75 and up are the only age group whose labor-force participation rate is projected to grow over the next decade, although their base is smaller. The number of workers in that age range is expected to jump nearly twofold by 2030, when nearly 10% of the civilian labor force will be older than 65, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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