Lane County Health Care Workers Are Aging – and Getting Younger

by Henry Fields

July 19, 2018

In 1992, the share of Lane County workers in health care and social assistance who were 55 and older was about 10 percent. Today, it’s about 27 percent.

The graph below shows the percentage of health care and social assistance workers in each age cohort for the last 25 years. The most obvious trend has been an increasing share of workers 55 and older.
The aging of the workforce brings both costs and benefits. Replacement planning could be a concern for local health care and social assistance providers if many workers are eying retirement in the next several years. At the same time, an older workforce may bring more stability and experience, which can benefit an employer.

Working longer into “retirement years” is increasing across the economy, a trend reflected in the data. From 1992 to 2017, the share of health care workers 65 and older has more than tripled. Some choose to work longer for financial reasons, but many continue to work because they feel healthy and love the work they do. 

Choosing to focus on the aging of the local health care industry isn’t entirely fair. The workforce in almost every sector, in all regions of Oregon, has grown older during this period. Baby boomers, currently in their mid-50s to early 70s, are a large generation with an outsized impact on workforce demographics.

Still, the Lane County health care industry has a higher percentage of workers aged 55 and older than either Lane County overall or the state’s health care industry. That wasn’t the case in 1992.

While the health care workforce is getting older, it’s getting younger too, as employers successfully bring in new and younger workers. For the last several years age cohorts have been relatively stable. In 2016 and 2017, the two largest cohorts were ages 35 to 44 and 25 to 34, indicating that a younger workforce generation is starting to take shape.

With many approaching retirements, new workers in the industry will be necessary. Health care occupations will make up five of the top 10 fastest growing jobs in Lane County, according to our most recent Occupational Employment Projections.

As a fast-growing, high-paying, and slowly aging industry, health care will continue to be an excellent opportunity for new workers in Lane County with the right skills.


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