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Women's Bureau
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Older Women Workers, ages 55 and over, 2008

Population and Labor Force

  • There were 38.5 million women age 55 and over in the U.S. in 2008. They represented 54.5 percent of total persons (men and women) in this age group.
  • Of these 38.5 million women, 13.1 million were in the labor force (working or looking for work) in 2008.
  • Labor force participation rates for women over 55 years of age continue to rise. Their labor force participation rate was 22.3 percent in 1988; 25.0 percent in 1998; as compared with 33.9 percent in 2008.
  • Women age 55 and over accounted for 18.2 percent of the total female labor force in 2008. They also made up 46.9 percent of the total 55 and over labor force (men and women).

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, January 1989, 1999, and 2009.

Employment and Occupations

  • There were 12.6 million employed women aged 55 and over in the U.S. in 2008.
  • Forty percent or 5.1 million of these women in this age group were employed in management, professional, and related occupations.
  • The remainder were employed in sales and office occupations (35 percent or 4.4 million); service occupations (18 percent or 2.2 million); production, transportation, and material moving occupations (6 percent or 789,000); and natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (1 percent or 93,000).
  • The 10 leading occupations for women age 55 and over in 2008 were: secretaries and administrative assistants (806,000); registered nurses (531,000); elementary and middle school teachers (482,000); bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks (366,000); retail salespersons (355,000); nursing, psychiatric and home health aides (298,000); cashiers (295,000); maids and housekeepers (275,000); first-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers (274,000); and receptionists and information clerks (261,000).

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, January 2009 and Current Population Survey, Annual Averages, 2008, unpublished tables.

Retirement and Pensions

  • The estimated average age at retirement from 1995-2000 based on exit from the labor force was 62.0 for men and 61.4 for women.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, October 2001, “Retirement age declines again in 1990s.”

  • Of the 60 million wage and salaried women working in March 2005, just 47 percent participated in a retirement plan. Remember, even small amounts can earn interest and add up over time.
  • On average a female retiring at age 65 can expect to live another 20 years. Savings can increase women’s chances of having enough money to last during her retirement.
  • Women are more likely to work in part-time job that don’t qualify for a retirement plan. And working women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to take care of family members; therefore they work fewer years and contribute less towards their retirement. If you work and if you qualify, join a retirement plan now.
  • By and large, women invest more conservatively than men and receive lower rates of return from their investments over time. Choose carefully where you put your money and how to make your investments grow.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration,

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration’s website to view the “Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement.”