Josephine County Older Workers: A Look at Employment by Industry

by Guy Tauer

September 13, 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 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, 19.5 percent of workers in Josephine County were in this category, or a total of 4,953 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 (1,029), retail trade (705), manufacturing (599), and educational services (541).

Comparing the percentage of workers ages 55 to 64 to the all-age average, we see a few minor differences. Among workers age 55 to 64, 2.6 percent were in the professional and business services industry, compared with 1.9 percent of workers of all ages. A slightly higher share of workers in this age group were in manufacturing, educational services, health care and social assistance, and public administration. This baby-boomer group had a slightly lower share of jobs in leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and administrative and support services 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 440 workers. Individual and family services had about 210 workers in this older worker group. Offices of physicians had about 150 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. Those included other general merchandise stores, a component of retail trade, which had 134 workers ages 55 to 64 in the fourth quarter of 2016. Other detailed retail industries included grocery stores (123) and automobile dealers (72).Top detailed industries with the most workers in the leisure and hospitality sector included restaurants and eating places (189) and traveler accommodations (60).
Now we’ll jump to the next older group of workers, those ages 65 and older. There were about 1,824 workers in that group during the fourth quarter of 2016 in Josephine County or about 7 percent of the workforce. Looking at the distribution of those workers, there were some 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, administrative and support services, and accommodations and food service industries. On the other hand, there was a higher concentration of workers ages 65+ in transportation and warehousing, professional, scientific and technical services, and other services industries compared with workers of all ages.
Digging deeper into more detailed industries with the oldest workers we see that during the fourth quarter of 2016 individual and family services had the most workers 65 and older. Elementary and secondary schools (95), restaurants and eating places (89), and religious organizations (74) also had many workers past traditional retirement age. 
Within the health care and social assistance sector, a wide array of detailed industries had workers in the 65+ age group. On the top list were individual and family services (99), offices of physicians (43), and nursing care facilities (27). The education field is another industry sector with many workers beyond what is considered typical retirement age. Detailed industries included elementary and secondary schools (95) and junior colleges (52).

Overall, many industries are retaining and recruiting older workers in Josephine 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 Josephine County workforce.

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