Monday, February 28, 2011

AARP and National Urban League Report Looks At Prospects For African-American Older Workers As Economy Recovers

A report released by AARP and the National Urban League takes a look at the prospects for African-American older workers as the economy recovers.

The new report, prepared for the two organizations by the Urban Institute, examines the labor market experiences of African-American workers aged 50 and over. AARP and the National Urban League point out in the study that older African-Americans could be well-positioned to take advantage of job opportunities likely to emerge in the rejuvenated economy. The study projects that health care and social service sectors are likely to generate many new jobs in the years ahead.

“As the recovery speeds up, older African-Americans can help meet employment needs in both the private and public sectors,” said Deborah Russell, director of workforce issues at AARP. “The role of community colleges and the workforce development community will be crucial in helping mature workers fill eventual shortages in high growth industries. Training programs that keep workers’ skills up-to-date are critical to maximizing these opportunities.”

Older African-Americans already make a significant contribution to the economy – the 4.6 million aged 50 and over are 9.5 percent of the aged 50-plus labor force, as of January, 2011. According to the study, African-American older workers have contributed at least $160 billion in earnings to the economy.

In the context of these contributions, the great recession has been particularly devastating for African -American older workers. Frequently saddled with fewer resources than Americans over all, they have faced crushing burdens that include declining housing values, health care cost increases, reduced retirement savings, and high unemployment.

Russell and Dr. Valerie Rawlston Wilson of the National Urban League noted that the community college system provides training opportunities that might be particularly valuable to 50+ African-Americans in search of additional skills and credentials as they seek employment in the new economy.

“Retraining mature workers with a desire and need to remain in the workforce is one of the most constructive ways of addressing the economic challenges this cohort faces while also capitalizing on the tremendous wealth of experience they bring to the workplace,” said Dr. Wilson, vice president of research at the National Urban League Policy Institute. “Facilitating the path to entrepreneurship is also a way to build upon the knowledge and creative capacity of this population,” she said.

AARP, in conjunction with the National Urban League Policy Institute, will hold a forum on March 8, from 8:30 am – noon, in New York City (concourse level of AARP offices, 780 Third Avenue, Manhattan, that will focus on the findings of the study.

The report also focuses on current resources available to assist employers in assessing their needs in a multi-cultural, multi-generational economy. Those resources include AARP’s free online Workforce Assessment Tool (

This unique planning resource, which already has been used by more than 1,500 companies, provides a snapshot of an organization’s workforce and demographics and the programs in place to leverage the talents and experience of its older workers.

For a copy of the full report, visit For more information, contact AARP Media Relations at 202-434-2560.
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