Oregon’s Workforce Ages 55 and Older by Industry and Region

by Gail Krumenauer

November 14, 2018

As Oregon’s population has aged, so has the state’s workforce. In the year 2000, workers ages 55 and older made up almost 13 percent of Oregon’s employment. Now, nearly one-fourth (23%) of workers are at least 55 years old. In some industry sectors and areas of the state, the aging trend is even more pronounced. They will likely feel the impact of Baby Boomers moving into retirement over the next decade to a greater degree.

Impacts by Industry and Occupation

In 2017, Oregon workers ages 55 and older averaged 23 percent of all payroll employees covered by Unemployment Insurance. Sectors with the highest concentrations of older workers included natural resources and mining (31%); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (30%); and education services (29%).

In 2017, farmworkers and laborers for crops, nurseries, and greenhouses stood well above all others as the top occupation in natural resources and mining. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers topped the transportation, warehousing, and utilities occupations. Elementary, secondary, and substitute teachers – along with teacher assistants – dominated the list of education services workers. These occupations could be among those disproportionately impacted by looming retirements. For each of these occupations, nine out of 10 job openings will occur to replace those permanently leaving the occupation due to retirement or a major occupational change.

Rural and Coastal Area Impacts

As with industries, different regions within Oregon have larger portions of workers nearing the end of their time in the labor force. Among the state’s nine local workforce investment areas, only the Portland area (Multnomah and Washington counties) has a smaller share (21%) of workers ages 55 and older than Oregon. Regions with the biggest shares of older workers tend to be rural and/or coastal.

The Southwestern Oregon area that includes Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties has the largest share (27%) of workers ages 55 and older. The next-largest share (26%) can be found in the coastal and inland areas of Northwest Oregon, which includes Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties. The Rogue Valley stands out as a metropolitan region (Medford and Grants Pass) with a relatively high share (25%) of older workers. Eastern Oregon also has one-fourth (25%) of its workforce clocking in at 55 or older.

Of all regions, Southwestern Oregon presents the greatest number of broad industries with a relatively large share of older workers. In five different sectors, at least one-third of the area’s workers are at least 55 years old. The most extreme case is transportation, warehousing, and utilities, where 38 percent of the workforce is at least 55 years old.

In Northwest Oregon, the only sector with more than one-third of the workforce ages 55 or older is transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Education services stands out in the Rogue Valley as the only sector with one-third (33%) of workers at least 55 years old. By contrast two of the most youthful sectors – leisure and hospitality and retail trade – had particularly small shares of older workers in the Portland area.

The sectors with the largest shares of workers in their later career years echo – perhaps even louder – the concerns about replacing retiring workers such as truck drivers and educators. In Northwest and Southwestern Oregon, nine out of 10 total job openings for truck drivers by 2027 will occur to replace workers permanently leaving the occupation. In the Rogue Valley, nine out of 10 job openings for elementary and secondary school teachers will also occur due to replacement.

More information about the gender, age, and race/ethnicity dynamics in Oregon’s workforce can be found at https://qwiexplorer.ces.census.gov/static/explore.html. Detailed occupational projections for Oregon and its sub-state areas are available at qualityinfo.org/projections.

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