Eastern Oregon Workforce Is Getting Older

by Tony Wendel

November 6, 2018

From 2007 to 2017, Eastern Oregon’s employment grew by more than 8 percent. However, employment growth varied widely by age group. While most age groups saw growth over that time period, employment for workers age 14 to 18 and those 45 to 54 declined substantially.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators, annual average employment for Eastern Oregon (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties) grew from 67,159 in 2007 to 72,821 in 2017. In 2007, employment of 14 to 18-year-olds was 2,168 and represented about 3.2 percent of Eastern Oregon’s total employment. By 2012, employment for this age group fell to 1,162, a drop of 46 percent. Youth employment in the area increased to 1,785 in 2017, representing only about 2.5 percent of Eastern Oregon’s total employment and still nearly 18 percent below the 2007 job count for 14 to 18-year-olds.
In 2007, the 45 to 54-year-old age group held the largest number of jobs in Eastern Oregon at 16,733, representing nearly 25 percent of the area’s total employment. Employment of workers in this age group fell to a low of 14,288 in 2015. Employment of 45 to 54-year-olds increased to 14,727 in 2017, making up about 20 percent of Eastern Oregon’s total employment and leaving the age group 12 percent below the 2007 level.

During this same period of time that youth employment and employment of 45 to 54-year olds was falling, employment of those 55 and over was growing in Eastern Oregon. The 55 to 64-year-old and 65 and over age groups were the only age groups to increase in employment every year from 2007 to 2017. In 2007, employment of those ages 55 and over represented about 21 percent of all employment in Eastern Oregon. By 2017, the share of jobs held by workers 55 and over in the area had grown to nearly 26 percent.

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