Study: 436K CT workers near their 401(k) years

About 100,000 more Connecticut workers are nearing retirement compared to the number a decade ago, according to a new state study, with manufacturing companies having the largest cohort to replace even as that industry has resumed growth the past few years.

Across all industries statewide, about 436,000 Connecticut workers were age 55 or older as of last fall, amounting to 27 percent of the state’s total workforce, according to economist Matthew Krzyzek of the state Department of Labor, who derived his estimates from data from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Census Bureau.

That was up from 20 percent of workers in 2008, Krzyzek determined in his study published in the July edition of “The Connecticut Economic Digest,” and nearly double the rate in 1998 when just 14 percent of Connecticut workers were nearing the age 66 when people become eligible for full Social Security benefits.

The manufacturing and utilities industries are looking ahead to 35 percent of their workforce reaching retirement age by 2028, while health and social services employers have the highest number of actual openings in excess of 71,000 workers.

“The increasing portion of older workers ... indicates that a large share of the workforce is approaching retirement age, heightening the need for replacement workers in coming decades,” Kryszek stated in the DOL report. “With more than 35 percent of its workforce over age 54, manufacturing will need to hire many replacement workers in addition to filling the new jobs that are expected to be added in the short term.”

Kryszek added that in addition to fielding replacement workers, employers will have to make accommodations for more aging workers as larger numbers clear their “prime” working years, in his words, between the ages of 25 and 54.

Connecticut’s financial services sector has the highest percentage of workers in that age bracket at nearly 70 percent, slightly ahead of professional services and information technology. Across all industries statewide, 62 percent of Connecticut workers were in that age range last year, down from 67 percent a decade earlier and 74 percent in 1998.

The question is whether more state residents will extend their working years in order to sock away more toward retirement while maximizing their Social Security benefits, with a Charles Schwab survey this month pegging at $1.7 million the amount the average American believes they will need to retire comfortably. Under current U.S. law, future Social Security beneficiaries can increase their monthly benefit by 8 percent annually over four years past age 66 — a possible boon for them as well as any employers contemplating having to replace valuable, experienced workers.; 203-842-2545; @casoulman