The Share of Prime Age Workers in Deschutes County Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

by Kale Donnelly

September 10, 2018

Since 1991, the share of prime age working individuals (aged 25 to 54 years old) in Deschutes County has been declining in a fairly steady fashion. Once touting a three- quarters share of the workforce, prime age workers now command a significantly smaller share of two thirds of the workforce. However, before we start ringing any alarm bells about the impending wave of retirements, it’s useful to keep in mind how the magnitude of certain cohorts can sway relative percentages.
In just the last five years, the number of employed individuals over the age of 55 has increased by 4,628 from third quarter 2012 to third quarter 2017 – a 37 percent increase from their third quarter 2012 employment levels of 12,557 workers. That’s a staggering growth rate! Taking in to account rapid population and employment growth within the county, plus would-be-retirees pushing off retirement to recoup their losses after the Great Recession, it comes as no surprise that this cohort has increased their employment levels along with the rest of the county. Not to mention, we as humans tend to age as time passes – a phenomenon that pains us all! Intuitively, one of the largest generations (Baby Boomers) will show up in our employment statistics in large numbers as two decades pass and folks age in to the cohort of 55 years and over. However, the number of prime aged workers has increased nearly 12,000 workers within the same timeframe of third quarter 2012 to third quarter 2017 – a growth rate of 31 percent from their third quarter 2012 employment levels of 38,746 workers. The most noticeable relative and absolute gains were seen in workers aged 25 to 34 – where a large share of the Millennial Generation finds themselves. In the last five years, this cohort has seen an increase of 5,107 workers, yielding a 41 percent increase.

With the shift of employment amongst those age cohorts over a five year timeframe we’ve seen a reduction in the share of prime age working individuals, but an increase in the number of prime age working individuals – more than twice the increase compared to those soon-to-be retirees. Keeping both measurements in mind, this goes to show that there may always be a story underlying certain statistics that flash across our newspapers and screens.


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