The American workplace is about to get grayer. Nearly two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 45 and 60 say they plan to delay retirement, according to a report to be released Friday by the Conference Board. That was a steep jump from just two years earlier, when the group found that 42% of respondents expected to put off retirement.
The labor force has been getting older for decades for reasons that range from longer life spans and better health to companies' replacement of defined-benefit pensions with higher-risk 401(k) plans. But the stark increase in workers expecting to stay on the job—now 62%—was a surprise. After all, the stock market has largely earned back its losses, home prices are rising, and the unemployment rate is creeping down, all of which suggests workers should be feeling more secure.
Many middle-aged Americans, though, drew down their savings during those lean years and now find that leaving the work force on their original timeline is no longer viable. They are also facing low interest rates, an uncertain future for Social Security, and a lower likelihood of receiving employer health insurance after retirement.
The uptick may be good news for some industries—notably utilities and power companies—that face disruptive skills shortages when older workers retire. However, senior employees can be expensive for companies, both in salary and health-care costs. In addition, amid anemic economic growth, these workers may block the pipeline for younger employees trying to advance their careers.