Thursday, January 26, 2017

Aging populations, declining migration are leading to an older workforce in some rural areas

Susan Fullen, 64, is in her first year of teaching business
classes at Jerome High School. She said she expects to keep
working well beyond 65. (Times-News photo by Drew Nash)
With fewer people moving to rural areas and the average age of rural populations rising, many rural areas are relying on an older workforce, Heather Kennison reports for The Times News in Twin Falls, Idaho. The Idaho Department of Labor and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates project the state's 65-and-older population "is expected to climb rapidly by 2025, outpacing the national average."

About 33 percent of Idahoans aged 65-69 work, and nearly 10 percent of those over 80 do, Kennison writes. "Nearly 20 percent of Blaine County’s utilities workers, for example, are 65 and older. And seniors account for more than 10 percent among Jerome County employees in agriculture, utilities, transportation and warehousing, real estate and leasing, and arts and recreation."

One problem is an unequal distribution of population growth, Kennison writes. The Idaho Department of Labor projects that from 2015-25 the state's rural population will grow by 40,384 people, compared to 214,067 for urban areas. "While the fastest-growing age group in both rural and urban counties is 65 and older, rural counties will have far less growth in other age groups. The 65-and-older cohort is projected to increase 24 percent in rural counties, while the 15-to-24 cohort will shrink 1.1 percent. The 23-39 cohort will grow 8.4 percent in rural counties, versus 15.8 percent in urban counties."

Another problem is that Idaho has a low unemployment rate, with 64 percent—the national average is 62.8 percent—of all working-age people holding jobs, Kennison writes.That’s a higher participation rate than the national average of 62.8 percent, said Sam Wolkenhauer, a Department of Labor regional economist and population forecaster.  Unemployment rates in rural areas, such as Jerome County, are especially low, at 3.2 percent.

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