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AARP Workforce Profiles: Selected characteristics of U.S. workers and non-workers age 40+

The AARP Workforce Profiles are designed to provide information about the national and state workforce age 40 and older and enable individuals and organizations dealing with older worker issues to have a better understanding of this population in order to plan and implement programs related to them.

This tool provides information about age 40+ workers and non-workers nationally and within each state, such as the number of hours worked per week, in which industries they work, how many work in the private or public sector, and how they get to work. Also, demographic characteristics of workers and non-workers are provided such as race, source of health insurance coverage, source of income, and grandparent status.

Further information may be obtained by contacting Jennifer H. Sauer of AARP State Research at (202) 434-6207 or Rosa Maymi of AARP Education and Outreach at (202) 434-3906.


Undoubtedly, the aging of the 77 million baby boomers – those individuals born between 1946 and 1964 – has impacted the U.S. workforce over the past decade and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this aging cohort will continue to impact the labor force over the next decade as well. Currently, there are over 144 million individuals in the U.S. age 40 and older, and among them, over 76 million are working.1

The BLS further projects that in 2020, the 55+ age group will total 97.8 million and will make up over one-quarter (28.7%) of the resident population and will increase their share of the labor force by 38 percent.2,3 Moreover, while the participation rate of workers age 65 and older has steadily increased since 1990, their participation rate since the start of the recession has considerably surpassed that of workers aged 55-64.4 By 2020, civilian labor force participation rate for this age group is projected to be 22.6 percent.5 And the BLS notes that not until 2020, when the older baby boomers begin to exit the workforce, will the U.S. labor force begin to experience a downturn in numbers.

The AARP Workforce Profiles tool is an electronic and interactive update of the 2005 publication, AARP State Profiles of Workers 45+. Like the earlier publication, this tool is designed to provide specific information about the 40+ workforce nationally and in each state for AARP staff as well as others who work or share an interest in the enhancement of the older U.S. workforce. This tool is intended to provide the user with a broad understanding of this population in order to plan and implement programs related to mature workers.

This tool provides information about age 40+ workers within each state, such as the number of hours worked per week, in which industries they work, how many work in the private or public sector, and how they get to work.  In addition, the user can view demographic characteristics of workers and non-workers with respect to health insurance coverage, income, source of income, education, disability status, race, gender, and grandparent status.

Data were gathered from the 2009-2011 American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS), which is taken from the U.S. Census Bureau data.  Data for Puerto Rico were provided from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009-2011 Puerto Rico Community Survey (PCRS).6 No data are available for the U.S. Virgin Islands from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2012
  2. Toossi, M.  Labor Force Projections to 2020: A More Slowly Growing Workforce, see Table 1, p. 44
  3. Toossi, M.  Labor Force Projections to 2020: A More Slowly Growing Workforce, p. 45
  4. Rix, S. The Employment Situation, October 2012: Relatively Little Change for Older Workers, p. 6
  5. Ibid, Toossi.  p. 50
  6. Please go to


For purposes of this tool, employment-related terms are defined as follows:

  • workers/employed: includes those working as paid employees, working for profit in their own business or profession, on their farm, or for 15 hours or more unpaid on family farm or in family business; also includes those on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces (part of ACS "labor force" definition)
  • non-workers: includes the unemployed and those not in the labor force (i.e., both of the categories below)
  • unemployed: includes those not working as a paid employee, and those actively looking for work and available to start a job
  • not in the labor force: includes students, homemakers, retired workers, seasonal workers interviewed in an off season who were not looking for work, institutionalized people, or those doing unpaid family work for less than 15 hours per week

For more information on ACS employment definitions please go to

For more information on how ACS estimates differ from other sources, please see

Using this Tool

You can customize your own tables given the select variables. By choosing any of the worker characteristics within the age, employment status, geography, or select variable categories, the tool can provide you with information for a single geographic area, or a comparative look between state(s), region(s), and/or the U.S. as a whole. These tables are based on age groups only, so the tables you receive will give you estimates among the age group(s) you selected.

There are six age group and three employment status categories from which to choose. (The 40+ age group is further broken down into three age ranges from which you may select.) Output tables will reflect those who are in the workforce in each state and/or nationally depending on your selections. Tables generated from this tool can display some or all of the following demographic variables by age and worker status selected:

  • Geographic area
  • Class of worker
  • Disability status
  • Education
  • Gender
  • Grandparent status
  • Health insurance source
  • Income
  • Income source
  • Industry
  • Number of hours worked
  • Race
  • Transportation to work

By default, tables will display both estimate counts and percentages for your selections.  You may also display percentages only, if desired.

"Employment Status of 50+ by Gender" Tables

This table can accompany any of your customized tables. It includes the number of people who are employed, unemployed, and not in the labor force. The table includes a row percentage of males and females for each category, followed by the total number in that category.  Age 50 and older was chosen as the fixed age group for this selection because it reflects AARP’s membership age as well as a unique category not included in many other data sets. The following is an example of the type of questions that may be answered by this table:

Q. Of all men 50 years of age and older in Alabama, what percentage are employed? How does that compare to the entire U.S.?

A. 53 percent of all workers in Alabama age 50 and older are male which is nearly equal to the proportion of male workers in the U.S. age 50 and older. However, looked at another way, of all men age 50 and older in Alabama, 45.4% are employed, 3.6% are unemployed (not working but looking for work), and 51.0% are not in the labor force at all (not working and not looking for work). Of all men 50 years of age and older across the entire U.S., 49.9% are employed, 4.5% are unemployed, and 45.6% are not in the labor force at all. Compared to men 50+ across the U.S. as a whole, men 50+ in Alabama are less likely to be employed.

Guide to Interpreting Tabulations

In order to improve the precision of the estimates at the state level, particularly for smaller or less populated states, the 3-year 2009–2011 ACS PUMS data was used for this analysis. As a result, the data presented here technically represent average values over the three year period. The national unweighted sample for the U.S. population age 40+ in this dataset is 4,727,802. Sample size and margins of error remain an issue for some subgroups and caution must be used when making inferences in these cases. Simply put, the margin of error describes how far a sample’s results stray from the true value of an entire population. The smaller the margin of error, the greater likelihood the sample is representative of the population.

Given that the ACS is a survey of a sample of people drawn from the larger population, smaller states like Wyoming or Delaware are likely to yield small samples of the U.S. population, and therefore yield a smaller number of respondents and larger margins of error within subgroups such as the number of workers age 50+ with no health coverage.  On the other hand, more populated states like California are likely to yield greater numbers of respondents and smaller margins of error within subgroups, making inferences to the larger state population more reliable. This tool does not provide a way for users to test for significance between estimates, so use caution when comparing geographies as differences may not be meaningful. Cautionary notes are also included throughout the tool in cases where the unweighted sample size for a particular age group in a state is less than 1,000.  The margin of error for a sample of 1,000 is +/- 3.0 percent.

About U.S. Census American Community Survey

The data behind this tool comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year in the United States and Puerto Rico – rather than from the whole population like the decennial census. Foremost, data from the ACS determines how federal and state funds are distributed each year to states and local communities but the data are available for public use for a variety of purposes. All ACS data are survey estimates and not exact numbers and proportions in a point in time. The data are available in 1, 3, and 5-year period estimates so data are combined to produce 12 months, 36 months or 60 months of data.

The American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample, or PUMS, is a data set of un-tabulated records of individual people or housing units produced by the Census Bureau. As with all Census information, PUMS files are available to the public and allow users access to inexpensive data for custom tables, regression analysis, or modeling applications not available with the pre-tabulated ACS data.

For more information on the American Community Survey and how to use the data, please go to

For more information about PUMS, please go to

To understand how the ACS differs from other labor statistics, please see


Staff from AARP’s Research and Strategic Analysis, Education and Outreach, and Digital Strategy and Operations contributed to the development of this tool. Jennifer Sauer provided coordination of the project; Sibora Gjecovi provided the data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey; Rosa Maymi and Elizabeth Buser provided content guidance; Pete Wiley and Andrew Wilson provided guidance on design and implementation. Charlotte Spinner utilized the Cuadra STAR® information management suite to create this tool.

Contact Us

For questions or comments regarding this site or the tool or data, please contact Jennifer H. Sauer at or (202) 434-6207.

For more information on older worker issues and AARP programs, please contact Rosa Maymi at or (202) 434-3906.

For more information on the U.S. Census American Community Survey, please go to



The following links provide access to selected data for each state, as well as a national profile, in PDF format.

There is no data for the Virgin Islands because the American Community Survey does not survey the Virgin Islands. While these profiles do not include all of the data available in the interactive tool, they do cover most of the variables for the major age breakdowns (40-49, 50-64, 65+). Full health insurance source and income source data are not included in these reports.


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