Growing number of Alaska workers are older

Seniors may make up a smaller share of Alaska’s population than most states, but they comprise the fastest growing senior population in the nation and are staying in the workforce longer, state labor officials say.

The aging population and a growing tendency to work later in life means a growing share of Alaska’s workforce is 55 or older, writes Mali Abrahamson, a research analyst with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, in the May issue of Alaska Trends.

The percentage has increased markedly, from 10 percent of the resident workforce in 2002 to 20 percent in 2017, Abrahamson said. That growth is fueled by the large baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, the youngest of whom turned 53 in 2017, while the oldest reached their early 70s.

Workers 55 and older earn higher wages across the board, making more than younger workers in nearly every occupation, especially those between 55 and 64, the highest earning age group. Still wages drop off after age 65, when 40 percent of those still working make less than $15,000 a year on average, which suggests that many work part time.

Occupations with the highest percentages of older workers tend to be the high paying jobs that take years of experience to reach, including top executive positions and postsecondary teaching jobs, such as university professorships.

Labor department research found that among older workers men out-earn women in most industries, and that the gender pay gap is wider than among younger workers.

Researchers also noted that as of 2017, 16 percent of workers in the Valdez-Cordova census area were over 55 years old, while 29 percent of the area’s overall population was over 55.