RI has lost 10% of its prime working-age population since 2006March 4th, 2013 at 2:46 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was the highest in the United States in December, and it would have been even higher if tens of thousands of residents in the prime of their working lives hadn’t decided to leave the state during and after the Great Recession.
One of the alternative ways economists check the health of the job market is by looking at the employment status of “prime-age” adults – defined as those between the ages of 25 and 54. Those are the years when most people are focusing on their careers, raising families and saving for retirement. Looking specifically at 25- to 54-year-olds also allows analysts to look past changes caused by demographic shifts as the baby boomers age.
The prime-age numbers for Rhode Island are striking and worrying: excluding soldiers and institutionalized individuals, the state’s civilian population ages 25-54 plunged by 46,000 between 2006 and 2012, a drop of 10% in just six years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among those who remained, the share with a job dropped by 16% and the number of unemployed more than doubled.
Here’s a chart:
While the 2012 unemployment rate for prime-age Rhode Islanders was 10%, if the 46,000 prime-age workers who’ve left since 2006 had stayed and continued to look for a job, their unemployment rate would have been 19.7% – almost twice as high.
The statistics for prime-age residents tell a different and more troubling story than the Census data for the total population. The BLS says Rhode Island’s total civilian non-institutional 16-and-older population actually inched up by 0.5% between 2006 and 2012. That’s largely because the number of residents ages 55 and older jumped 19%, offsetting the loss of 25- to 54-year-olds.
This appears to signal that older Rhode Islanders are staying in the state but aren’t being replaced by a new generation of younger residents. Rhode Islanders 65 and older made up a larger share of the population than any other age group in 2012, whereas six years ago they were only the third-largest.
More older Rhode Islanders want to hold down a job compared with before the recession, as well: the number of 65-plus residents in the state’s labor force jumped from 21,000 in 2006 to 30,000 in 2012, and the number of 55- to 64-year-olds in the work force rose from 77,000 to 91,000. (There was also a small increase in the 20- to 24-year-old work force, which rose by 3,000.)
Here’s how the age composition of the work force has changed:
• Related: Baker: RI’s problem isn’t population loss, it’s a lousy economy (Jan. 7)
An earlier version of the fifth paragraph in this post transposed the decline in the prime-age population (46,000) with the decline in the prime-age labor force (42,000).