Clocking Out Early

After age 60, Minnesotans content to give up top spot for labor force participation

Whether donning stethoscopes or steel-toed boots, the men and women of Minnesota are serious about working. Prior to age 60, Minnesota boasts a nation-leading labor force participation rate.

Labor force participation, a key economic barometer, includes those either looking for paid employment or working for pay. It does not include the valuable contributions of those outside of the formal labor force including those raising children, volunteering, or going to school.

A strong job market and industrious behavior places Minnesota atop national rankings for labor force participation for every age group from those age 20 to 24 through the 55- to 59-year-olds. Minnesotans can’t even complain about lackadaisical teenagers; that group ties for the nation’s third-highest participation rate.

Click here for interactive version of this graph, and to see which states tie or outrank Minnesota for highest labor force participation in each age group.

But once Minnesota’s older adults have seen 60 candles atop their birthday cake, they are content to give up their top spot for labor force participation.

In the latest data, Minnesota residents in the first half of their 60s were less likely to be in the workforce than peers in 5 states, including front-runner Nebraska (69%), as well as North and South Dakota, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. At 63%, Minnesota came in sixth.

Labor force participation among Minnesotans after age 65 falls even further relative to other states. In the 65- to 74-year-old age group, a full 14 other states outwork Minnesotans, and the state ties statistically with another eight. Among those age 75+, a similar 13 states outrank Minnesota.

Why are older Minnesotans entering full retirement more quickly than many older adults across the nation? One heartening theory for which there is some evidence: Minnesota’s older adults may be more economically secure, with more retirement savings, than late-career workers across much of the nation.

Perhaps they now wish to be caregivers for their grandchildren, or to volunteer at the food shelf, or finally take up kayaking. And who could blame them? Less rosy explanations might include health challenges or even employer discrimination.

Whatever the reasons, the outcome concerns us all. Like many states, the number and share of Minnesota’s population that is age 65+ has never been higher, and is headed further north. Baby Boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and continue to press into traditional retirement years in unprecedented numbers. The state’s already tight market for workers is getting tighter by the day.

Thus, the choices of older adults will determine, in part, who’s available to fill the needs of Minnesota’s economy. More than 152,000 Minnesotans age 65 or older are still in the labor force today.

Unfortunately for employers, it appears many of Minnesota’s older adults don’t need the labor force as much as Minnesota’s labor force now needs them. For those seasoned workers who may want to boomerang back, even with limited hours, many parts of the economy will be eager to receive them.

-Andi Egbert(@DataANDInfo)

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This post originally appeared on ‘Lab Notes,’ published by the APM Research Lab.