Saturday, June 15, 2013

Oregon: Aging Workforce Major Factor in Declining Labor Participation Rates

According to a report from the Oregon Employment Department's Workforce and Economic Research Division, the state's share of the population 16 years old and over that is employed or unemployed has fallen to the lowest level since the late 1970s. "Oregon’s Falling Labor Force Participation: A Story of Baby Boomers, Youth, and the Great Recession" explores the three major reasons for falling participation: the aging workforce, younger workers declining population, and the results of the Great Recession.

The report finds that Oregon’s labor force participation rate is at its lowest level since records began in 1976. Specifically, the state’s labor force participation rate peaked at 68.9% in 1998 and declined to 63.4% in 2012. Fully half of this decline can be attributed to the aging population--the movement of Oregon’s population into older age groups accounts for 3.2 percentage points of the overall drop. "In other words, the aging of the population into age groups with lower participation rates brings the overall rate down, even as participation rates in the older groups are on the rise."

With regards to the rise in participation rates of older workers, the report states:
Falling participation rates is not the story for every age group. Labor force participation has been on the rise for people aged 55 to 64 since 1986 (Graph 3). A number of factors are driving this trend. One factor has been improvements in health that allow workers to continue in the labor force longer than workers of past generations. A second factor has been the shift towards a service economy and away from a manufacturing economy. The shift resulted in less labor intensive “blue collar” jobs and more “white collar” jobs that are less physically demanding. A third factor is that workers have to work longer to build savings for retirement due to the move away from defined-benefit pensions and towards 401K plans. Dramatic financial market swings in recent years provide an additional challenge to older workers trying to determine if they have built up sufficient savings to retire.
Among other things, the report also poses the question whether it is time to change thinking that ages 25 to 54 are "prime working age." The report also states that while "Regions and industries with a large proportion of older workers may face a relative shortage of workers as more baby boomers reach retirement age," "there are enough younger people and their participation rates are far enough below historic averages that there should be enough replacement workers if they are given appropriate training and offered sufficient job opportunities."

Source: Oregon Employment Department Reports & Analysis (June 12, 2013)

No comments: