Redefining the Prime Working Years

Chris Porter photo
Mikaela Arroyo photo

Chris Porter

Mikaela Arroyo

October 6, 2017

The workaholic baby boomers continue to redefine employment, even as they reach the traditional retirement age. They created the surge in dual-income families that ended in 2000, and now they are creating a surge in full-time workers over the age of 65.

Those born in the 1950s—who we nicknamed the Innovators for the societal shift they led toward innovation—have had a profound impact on the US economy. Innovators are:

  • Large in numbers. 66% more people were born in the 1950s than the 1930s, and immigration over the years has added to their size.
  • Hard working. They have had the highest labor force participation rates of any generation after age 35, with nearly two-thirds of them still working today.


The 1950s Innovators are 58 to 67 today, which means that all of them are now outside the “prime working years” category (ages 25–54) that many economists use. The 55+ age group now holds 22% of all full-time jobs—a significant increase from only 11% in the mid-1990s. The Innovators have delayed retirement, driven by economic necessity in the wake of the Great Recession, a desire to keep working, and a realization that they will likely live longer than any generation before them.

As more Innovators reach the traditional retirement age, we forecast that they will continue to work more than any preceding generation. We anticipate that one-quarter of them will still be working full-time in their late sixties—almost 7% more than those born in the 1940s and 11% more than those born in the 1930s.


Because of these shifts, we are telling our clients to build Empty Nester housing:

  • Near employment centers. While many will telecommute, a higher than usual percentage want to live closer to job centers. Additionally, a higher percentage will want to live near their kids and grandchildren, whose presence is the most important “amenity.”
  • With multigenerational floor plans. Separate entrances, dual masters, and even separate mini-kitchens have resonated with this group. The 1950s Innovators have the down payment, and their adult kids can make the mortgage payment, resulting in a great opportunity to build homes that don’t exist in the resale market today.

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About The Author

Chris Porter photo
Chris Porter
Senior Vice President, Chief Demographer
Chris brings clarity to JBREC’s clients on demographic trends and translates their impact on local housing markets. He also analyzes and compares local housing market metrics in JBREC’s Metro Analysis and Forecast and Regional Analysis and Forecast monthly reports.
Mikaela Arroyo photo
Mikaela Arroyo
Vice President, NHTI | Chief of Staff
Mikaela leads trend research for the New Home Trends Institute, conducting monthly surveys of consumers and industry professionals to better understand housing pain points and desires. As Chief of Staff to the CEO, Mikaela strategizes and supports the daily operations of the company, focusing on business initiatives.

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