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Age 85-Plus Workers Have Nearly Doubled Over a Decade

Their growing ranks include crossing guards, truckers, ranchers and musicians

Farmers talking in wheat field
The most common job for the 85-plus is farming and ranching, in part because that’s what many have been doing their whole lives.
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More than a quarter million Americans 85 or older were employed over the past year — almost twice the comparable number shortly before the Great Recession — according to an analysis of census figures by the Washington Post.

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The newspaper reported that the 255,000 85-plus workers who have been employed in the past year represent 4.4 percent of their age group. The rate in 2006 was 2.6 percent.

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The Post’s Wonkblog cites several reasons for the job spike for older adults: longer life expectancy, concerns about retirement income, better education and less physically demanding work.

Their growing ranks include crossing guards, musicians, truckers, funeral home workers and product demonstrators at big-box stores. But the most common job for the very old is farming and ranching, according to the Post, in part because that’s what many have been doing their whole lives.

The Post crunched the numbers from Census Bureau data covering the years 2001 to 2016.

While the growth of the 85-plus workforce is most pronounced, older adults  in general  are working more: For every age above 55, the Post found, “U.S. residents are working or looking for work at the highest rates on record.”

At the same time, the trend for younger people is markedly different. Those who are 30 and younger are “staying on the sidelines at rates not seen since the 1960s and  ’70s,  when women weren’t yet entering the workforce at the level they are today,” the Post reported.

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