Eastern Oregon Workforce Is Getting Older

by Tony Wendel

January 6, 2020

From 2008 to 2018, Eastern Oregon’s employment grew by a little more than 6 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 67,265 in 2008 to 71,513 in 2018. In 2008, employment of 14 to 18-year-olds was 2,029 and represented about 3.0 percent of Eastern Oregon’s total employment. By 2012, employment for this age group fell to 1,169, a drop of 42 percent. Youth employment in the area increased to 1,784 in 2018, representing only about 2.5 percent of Eastern Oregon’s total employment and still 12 percent below the 2008 job count for 14 to 18-year-olds.
In 2008, the 45 to 54 age group held the largest number of jobs in Eastern Oregon at 16,545, representing nearly 25 percent of the area’s total employment. Employment of workers in this age group fell to a low of 14,215 in 2018, making up about 20 percent of Eastern Oregon’s total employment and leaving the age group 14 percent below the 2008 level.

During this same period of time, as youth employment and employment of workers ages 45 to 54 fell, employment of those 55 and over grew in Eastern Oregon. The 65 and over age group was the only age group to increase in employment every year from 2008 to 2018. In 2008, employment of those ages 55 and over represented about 22 percent of all employment in Eastern Oregon. By 2018, the share of jobs held by workers 55 and over in the area had grown to 26 percent.

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