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Crosstabs - A Closer Look at the Economics & Demographics of Colorado

Aging and the Economy

Nov 20, 2017 • Colorado State Demography Office

Aging of Colorado and its Impact on Employment

In October 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its long-term occupational employment projections from 2016 to 2026. Changing demographics and the aging of baby-boomers driving up demand for healthcare services were cited in the intro paragraph of the Projections overview and highlights, 2016-26 in the Monthly Labor Review. The State Demography Office (SDO) released a paper earlier in 2017 that looked at the Employment Impact from Senior Spending in Colorado, with a specific focus on the industries and occupations that were most impacted by the growing senior population in Colorado. The commonalities between the industries / occupations with the most jobs supported by seniors in Colorado and fastest growing industries and occupations identified by the BLS are highlighted below.

The SDO research on senior supported jobs in Colorado showed that nearly 250,000 jobs in Colorado were supported the spending of 680,000 residents over the age of 65 in our state in 2014. Of these jobs, about 1 in 3 was found in the health care and social assistance industry. With $7.4 billion in Medicare benefits accrued in Colorado and 65+ households spending approximately 60% more on health care than the average for all households, the substantial amount of employment in this industry is not surprising. Similarly, the BLS wrote “the aging of the population and an expected rise in chronic conditions [will] lead to higher demand for healthcare services.” Three of the 7 fastest growing industries through 2026 are: offices of physicians, offices of other health practitioners (i.e. chiropractors, optometrists, and mental health), and hospitals. The BLS anticipates that 37.1% of the 10.75 million wage and salary jobs added over the next decade will be in the health care and social assistance industry. By 2026, this industry is expected to employ the most workers of all industries and account for 15% of all employment, up from 13% of all employment in 2016 and 11% in 2006.

The top 5 occupations supported by the spending of seniors in Colorado were: Personal care aides (11,483), Retail salespersons (10,467), Registered nurses (9,203), Cashiers (7,124), and Combined food prep and servers (6,860). Other notable medical occupations that had a large number of senior supported jobs were Nursing assistants, at 6,736, Home health aides (3,486), Licensed practical and vocational nurses (1,924), and Medical assistants (1,921).

The BLS is projecting that occupations with the most new jobs through 2026 will be Personal care aides, with employment growth of 754,000, followed by Combined food prep and servers (580,000), and Registered nurses (437,000). The impact of the aging population is evident in that the 3 industries with the most projected job growth nationally over the next decade are all in the top 5 senior supported occupations in Colorado. Other medical occupations that are anticipated to have large amounts of growth also showed up on the top senior supported occupations list in Colorado, including Home health aides with expected growth of 426,000, Medical assistants (185,000), and Nursing assistants (164,000). These 6 occupations are expected to account for 1 out of every 5 new jobs created between now and 2026.

Health care occupations and those associated with health care accounted for 17 of the 30 fastest growing occupations over the next decade as shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Health care and related occupations

These 17 fast growing occupations are all projected to increase between 3 to 6 times faster than the 7.4 percent growth rate for all occupations combined. The rapid increase in Home health and Personal care aides was partially attributed to changes in patient preferences and shifts in federal funding toward in-home or community-based care. Some of these positions like Home health aides, Personal care aides, and Physical therapy aides only require a high school diploma or equivalent, but these also tend to be lower paying positions too. Other fast growing occupations like Physician assistants, Nurse practitioners, Physical therapists, and the postsecondary educators on this list will typically require a Graduate degree.

The mix of lower paying service jobs along with higher paying health care practitioner jobs in these fast growing occupations will likely lead to continued bifurcation in the labor market. As the senior population in Colorado is projected to expand at a rate that is much faster than our overall population through 2030, it is important to look at the talent pipeline for many of these rapidly growing health-related occupations to help ensure that an adequate supply of well-trained workers exists to meet the demand of jobs that will experience rapid growth over the next decade.

The full SDO report can be found on our website at: