State faces backlog of 70,000 claims from workers newly eligible for benefits

The Oregon Employment Department building in Salem. 

An October report by the Oregon Employment Department found the share of aging workers age 55 and older has tripled across the state over the past three decades — while the total number of jobs grew only about 50%.

According to the report, these aging workers held slightly more than 10% of jobs in the state in 1992, but by 2019, that number increased to 24%. The report stated that the large baby boomer generation, now 55 and over, are more likely to continue in the labor force at that age than previous generations.

“It’s important to consider the implications for businesses’ future ability to find enough workers,” Gail Krumenauer, state employment economist and author of the report, told the Business Tribune. “We’re already in a situation, with an unemployment rate at 4.4%, that is really low by historical standards. Employers are currently having widespread difficulty finding all the workers that they’d like to hire or need to hire.”

Many of these aging workers do plan to retire within the next decade — retiring their skillsets and knowledge, as well — and business owners will need to replace them somehow.

“Even though we should see some of that current (hiring) difficulty get alleviated in the coming months, in the longer-term with more workers hoping to retire in the coming years, that’s going to create a different but ongoing source of difficulty for them to have enough available workforce,” Krumenauer said.

The report found this aging workforce trend can be expected to accelerate in the near future. It also found the pace of retirements will quicken in industries that have higher shares of aged workers. In Oregon, the health care industry has the most aged workers, the report found — and rural counties have even more aged workers.

However, employers in Portland metro counties will find larger groups of young workers to recruit from when replacing retirees in general, the report said.

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