This headline ran recently at financial site MarketWatch: “Think you’ll stop working in your 60s? Get real.”
What is happening? Many Americans don’t have enough money to retire, at least if they want to keep their current financial lifestyles. People who want to live as they have need to remain employed full time. This has several consequences. Among the most obvious is that jobs that younger workers might aspire to have will not be open as quickly as they used to be.
Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 24/7 Wall St. identified the occupation with the oldest workers. We reviewed all 21 occupations in which most workers are 50 or older. We excluded all non-specific occupation classifications used by the BLS from consideration, specifically those jobs labeled as “all other,” a catch-all designation.
The occupations with the oldest workers span different kinds of industries and income levels. Some of the jobs on this list take years of experience and training to do properly, so their workforces would naturally skew older. In other cases, the jobs are being slowly phased out due to consumer trends or technology, so younger workers are not entering those fields.
To determine the occupation with the oldest workers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on age by detailed occupation from the BLS’s Current Population Survey (CPS) table. Detailed occupations were ranked based on median age for all workers 16 years and over as of 2020. Data on total employment counts also came from the CPS. Supplemental data on median annual wage either came from calculations based on median weekly earnings figures from the CPS or from median annual wage estimates from the BLS Occupational and Employment Wage Statistics program for May 2020. Data on projected employment change from 2019 to 2029, educational attainment by detailed occupation and typical educational requirement needed for entry to each occupation came from the BLS Employment Projections program, and figures are the most recent data available.
The occupation with the oldest workers is farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers. Here are the details:
- Median age in workforce: 56.8 years old
- Workers 65 and older: 296,000 (32.9% of total workforce)
- Projected employment growth, 2019 to 2029: −6.5%
- Median annual earnings: $45,448
Farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers are in the occupation with by far the highest median age, at 56.8 years. This is more than two years older than any other job. Almost a third of all farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers are 65 or older, or nearly 300,000 in total.
The median age of farmers and ranchers has increased steadily in recent decades as fewer young people are working in this occupation. However, younger agricultural workers tend to have larger operations, whereas smaller farms are typically operated by older workers. This consolidation of smaller farms into larger operations helps explain why the number of farmers is projected to further decline in the next decade.