Jackson County Older Workers: A Look at Employment by Industry

by Guy Tauer

September 7, 2017

The percentage of those ages 55 and over who are participating in the Oregon labor market, as expressed by the labor force participation rate (LFPR), rose from about 30 percent in 1997 to about 40 percent by 2016. The number of older workers has been increasing because of both the rising LFPR and also demographic trends. The U.S. baby-boomer cohort, those born between 1946 and 1964, is estimated recently at 74.1 million people. With this population cohort currently retired or in the older workers category, it might be interesting to see where these workers are employed.

Later this month, I’m planning on celebrating another lap around the sun. For those who like numbers and to count, this will be the start of my 53rd circumnavigation of our local star. This puts me within striking distance of the ability to move into a 55+ senior living community, getting senior discounts at willing eateries, and all the rights and privileges that making it this far affords. It’s an odd age. Like being a tween again. I still think and feel like I did three or more decades ago. But I’m getting “long in the tooth,” as the old timers used to say. My little summer goatee came in awfully gray this year. That summer tradition may have run its course. In another couple years, I’ll be past my “prime working age,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics definition, and be joining the ranks of “older workers.” I’m the youngest of the baby boomers, and retirement is on the not too distant horizon.
Many baby boomers have started second or third careers or continue to work part time or seasonal jobs long after “retiring.” Let’s take a look at the industries where workers ages 55 and over are employed in Jackson County. Next month we will publish a similar analysis for Josephine County. This quarterly snapshot of employment by industry and age is from the Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics Quarterly Workforce Indicators data series.

First, we’ll look at workers ages 55 to 64 years by industry sector. In the fourth quarter of 2016, nearly 18 percent of workers in Jackson were in this category, or a total of 15,446 workers. The industries with the most workers in this age group were similar to the distribution of workers for all ages. The industries with the most workers in this younger baby-boomer cohort were health care and social assistance (3,022), retail trade (2,637), and educational services (1,331). There were more than 1,000 workers ages 55 to 64 in educational services, manufacturing, and professional and business services.
Comparing the percentage of workers ages 55 to 64 to the all-age average, we see a few minor differences. Eight percent of workers age 55 to 64 were in the professional and business services industry, compared with 4.7 percent of workers of all ages. A slightly higher percent of worker in this age group were in professional and business services, transportation, warehousing and utilities, health care and social assistance, and administrative and support services. This baby-boomer group had a slightly lower share of jobs in leisure and hospitality, and construction compared with workers of all age groups.

Turning to more detailed industries where the younger baby-boomers work, the greatest number were in elementary and secondary schools, with about 950 workers. General medical and surgical hospitals also had just less than 900 workers in this older worker group. Offices of physicians had about 600 workers ages 55 to 64 during the final quarter of 2016.

The second largest sector, retail trade, had many detailed industries in the top tier of those with the most workers ages 55 to 64 in the group. Those included electronic shopping and mail order houses, a component of retail trade, which had almost 900 workers ages 55 to 64 in the fourth quarter of 2016. Since this is typically the peak time period for retail sales employment, it’s likely this number would be lower if we analyzed different time periods. Other detailed retail industries included grocery stores (384), other general merchandise stores (291), and automobile dealers (21).Top detailed industries with the most workers in the leisure and hospitality sector included restaurants and eating places (484) and traveler accommodations (403).

Now we’ll jump to the next older group of workers, those ages 65 and older. There were about 6,040 workers in that group during the fourth quarter of 2016 in Jackson County. Looking at the distribution of those workers, there were only minor differences between concentration of employment by industry between those ages 65+ and the all age workers. Among those 65+, there was less concentration of workers in the construction, manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and accommodations and food service industries. On the other hand, there was a higher concentration of workers ages 65+ in retail trade; professional, scientific and technical services; real estate, rental and leasing; and other services industries compared with workers of all ages. Even where those differences were noted, the differences were only between 1.0 and 3.4 percentage points.
Digging deeper into more detailed industries with the oldest workers we see that during the fourth quarter of 2016 electronic shopping and mail order houses had the most workers, nearly 400. Other retail trade industries in the top list included grocery stores (115), automobile dealers (115), and other general merchandise stores (96).
The leisure and hospitality sector provided numerous jobs to those ages 65+ in restaurants and eating places (291) and traveler accommodations (94). Within the health care and social assistance sector, a wide array of detailed industries had workers in the 65+ age group. General medical and surgical hospitals employed the greatest number, about 250 workers. Others on the top list were individual and family services (177), offices of physicians (160), and retirement and assisted living facilities (121). The education field is another industry sector with many workers beyond what is considered typical retirement age. Detailed industries included elementary and secondary schools (231) and colleges, universities and professional schools (98).

Overall, many industries are retaining and recruiting older workers in Jackson County, amid the aging of the workforce, the improving job market, and demand for workers across the economy. But eventually, even we youngest baby-boomers will someday retire or leave the workforce, creating demand for training and hiring of the next generation of the Jackson County workforce.

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