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SmartAsset 2022 Edition: Where Seniors Stayed in the Workforce Through COVID-19

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many seniors rethought their working or retirement arrangements, with some seniors opting to leave the workforce while other retirees chose to rejoin it. In fact, the nation’s senior labor force participation rate, perhaps surprisingly, stayed consistent between 2019 and 2021. About 19% of those over the age of 65 continued to work or were looking for work between 2019 and 2021, amid the pandemic.

Different cities saw more seniors staying in the workforce than others, however. Keeping this in mind, SmartAsset set out to identify the cities where senior citizens stayed in the workforce  or rejoined it throughout the pandemic. To do this, we examined labor force participation rates for the 100 cities with the largest senior populations in the U.S. For details on our data sources and how we compiled the information to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s third study on where seniors are staying in the workforce. You can find the 2021 edition here.

Key Findings

  • Cities in Texas and California had the most active senior workforces. In total, 11 out of the 20 cities where seniors were most likely to continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic are located in either the Lone Star State or the Sunshine State.
  • The percentage of seniors working rose in more than half of cities. Of the 100 cities we analyzed, 51 had a higher percentage of seniors working in 2021 compared to 2019.
  • A Florida city was home to the least active senior labor force. Senior citizens in Port St. Lucie were least likely to continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s senior labor force participation rate fell 4.4% between 2019 and 2021, the third-largest drop among the 100 cities we analyzed. Meanwhile, only 14.1% of the people age 65 and older were still working or looking for work in 2021.


1. Dallas, TX

Dallas is the city where seniors were most likely to continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic. With 28.1% of senior citizens still working in 2021, the city had the highest senior labor force participation rate across our entire study. Dallas also posted the sixth-largest increase (3.8%) in senior labor force participation between 2019 and 2021.

2. Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake’s senior labor force participation rate jumped 4.4% between 2019 and 2021, the fourth-largest increase among the 100 cities we analyzed. Meanwhile, 24% of Chesapeake’s seniors were still working in 2021, sixth-highest across our study.

3. Madison, WI

Wisconsin’s capital city had the seventh-highest senior labor force participation rate (23.6%) in 2021. Senior labor force participation in Madison rose 3.1% between 2019 and 2021, which ranks as the ninth-largest increase across our study.

4. Plano, TX (Tie)

Only Dallas had a higher percentage of senior citizens working in 2021 than Plano, where 26.2% of seniors were still working or available to work. Meanwhile, Plano’s senior labor force participation rate grew 2.4% from 2019 to 2021, the 17th-largest two-year increase in this study.

4. Riverside, CA (Tie)

While 22.7% of Riverside’s senior citizens were working in 2021 (18th-most), no city in our study experienced a larger two-year jump in senior labor force participation than Riverside. This Southern California city had 7.3% more seniors working in 2021 compared to two years previously.

6. Fort Worth, TX

In Texas, Fort Worth’s senior labor force participation rate climbed 4.6% between 2019 and 2021, which ranks as the third-largest two-year jump in our study. Meanwhile, 22.8% of the city’s senior population was working or available to work in 2021, 17th-highest out of the 100 cities we examined.

7. Oakland, CA

Oakland, California had the fifth-largest two-year jump in senior labor force participation from 2019 to 2021 when 4.0% more senior citizens were working or looking for work. The city’s 22.4% senior labor force participation rate is 21st-highest across our study.

8. Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia’s 25.9% senior labor force participation rate is third-highest among the 100 cities we studied. Between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of seniors who remained in the workforce grew by 1.5%, the 26th-largest increase across our study.

9. Los Angeles, CA

The City of Angels had the 11th-highest senior labor force participation rate (23.3%) in 2021. Los Angeles also ranks 20th for its two-year change in the number of seniors who continued to work between 2019 and 2021 (2.2%).

10. Denver, CO

Denver had the 16th-highest senior labor force participation rate (22.9%) in 2021, which rose 2.4% from 2019. That change also ranks as the 16th-largest increase in senior labor force participation rate among the 100 cities we examined.

Data and Methodology

To rank the cities where seniors are staying in the workforce, SmartAsset analyzed data from the 100 cities in the country with the largest senior populations. Specifically, we examined the following two factors:

  • Senior labor force participation rate in 2021. Data is for residents who are age 65 and older and comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Two-year change in senior labor force participation rate. Data is for residents who are age 65 and older and comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 and 2021 1-year American Community Surveys.

We ranked each city for both metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking across the two metrics and produced a final ranking based on these averages. The city with the best average ranking places first in our study while the city with the lowest average ranking places last.

Retirement Saving Tips

  • Keep rising contribution limits in mind. The IRS is raising the contribution limits for 401(k)s and other workplace retirement accounts in 2023. Those with a 401(k) or 403(b) will be able to contribute up to $22,500 per year starting in 2023, plus $7,500 in catch-up contributions if you’re 50 or older.
  • Contribute to an HSA. Health savings accounts (HSAs) are a great way to save money for retirement. Money that’s saved in an HSA is tax-deductible, grows tax free and can be used years later in retirement on qualified medical expenses.
  • Work with a financial advisor. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Eva-Katalin

Patrick Villanova, CEPF® Patrick Villanova is a writer for SmartAsset, covering a variety of personal finance topics, including retirement and investing. Before joining SmartAsset, Patrick worked as an editor at The Jersey Journal. His work has also appeared on NJ.com and in The Star-Ledger. Patrick is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where he studied English and developed his love of writing. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, trying out new recipes in the kitchen and watching his beloved New York sports teams. A New Jersey native, he currently lives in Jersey City.
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