Oregon’s Aging Workforce by Industry and County, 2016

Oregon’s Aging Workforce by Industry and County, 2016

by Nick Beleiciks

February 15, 2018

Oregon’s workforce is aging. The number of Oregon jobs held by workers age 55 and over more than tripled from 1992 to 2016, while the total number of jobs grew by just 42 percent. Workers 55 years and over held just 10 percent of the jobs in 1992, increasing their share to 23 percent of all jobs by 2016. Driving this trend is the fact that much of the baby-boom generation is now 55 and over, and they are more likely to be in the labor force than previous generations were at this age. Many of these workers are probably planning to retire in the next 10 years, taking their skills and experience with them.

Although the aging workforce is a general demographic trend, it impacts employers, industries, or regions to varying degrees. Employers should know the age profile of their own workforce so they can plan accordingly for increased turnover from retirees. At a broader level, workforce planners need to know the demographic profiles of entire industries and regions to help gauge the need for future replacement workers.

Health Care Has the Most Workers Age 55 and Over

The pace of retirements will likely be faster in industries that have an older workforce profile. Industry age profiles vary from the relatively young accommodation and food services sector where just 14 percent of workers are 55 and over to the relatively old mining and quarrying sector where 34 percent of workers are 55 and over. Although utilities and mining have high concentrations of older workers, they employ fewer workers and will require relatively few replacement workers. Some employers within these industries may struggle to find enough suitable workers if they don’t plan ahead.

Health care (both private and public) stands out for the size of its aging workforce, with 63,000 workers age 55 and over. Other industries with a large number of workers nearing retirement age are manufacturing (45,000 workers), private and public educational services (43,000), and retail trade (41,000).

Employers in these and in all other industries need to plan for how they are going to attract replacement workers, especially for jobs that require significant training.

Rural Counties Have Older Workforces

Rural county workforces tend to have a higher share of older workers and will feel the impact of the aging workforce more than metro counties. In counties outside metropolitan areas, more than one out of four (27%) workers is 55 years or older. That represents nearly 63,000 workers in rural Oregon who are probably hoping to retire within the next decade.

Although older workers are a smaller share of the workforce in metro counties, there are a lot more of them. Multnomah County alone has more workers over the age of 55 (104,000 workers) than all of rural Oregon combined (63,000). However, Multnomah County has nearly as many workers in the next youngest age group (102,000 workers ages 45 to 54), while rural Oregon has far fewer workers in the next youngest age group (49,000 workers ages 45 to 54).

Employers in metro counties will generally have a larger pool of younger workers to recruit from when replacing retiring workers. Rural counties will need to recruit workers from other areas just to maintain the size of their current workforces.

Employment by Age Data

Information about employment by age group for industries and counties is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program and the Local Employment Dynamics (LED) partnership with the states. Employment data is the average of quarterly employment for 2016.

To explore and use the data available from LED, visit