Friday, September 5, 2014

Utah’s Abundantly Young Labor Force

By Jim Robson, Economist

After World War II, the “baby boom” generation was born in the United States, usually defined as births occurring from 1946 to 1964. Utah birthed almost 452,000 across that period. In 2012, baby boomers ranged in age from 48 years to 66 years old. The 2012 American Community Survey estimated size of the Utah’s baby boom generation was 513,300. This is 61,300 individuals more than those actually born in Utah from 1946 to 1964. The reason is that in subsequent years, on average, there has been positive net migration into Utah. More people of all ages move into the state then leave. So even with attrition due to deaths among baby boom generation Utahns, the size of this population cohort has increased by 13.6 percent.

The first graph shows the 2012 estimate of Utah’s labor force by age group. One obvious question is how difficult will it be to replace boomers is Utah over the next 15 to 20 years as this rather large cohort of workers retires. Fortunately for Utah the answer does not carry the negative weight that it does at the national level. Utah’s traditionally high fertility rate and positive net migration have endowed the state with the nation’s youngest population. This means there is plenty of young labor and then some to replace the aging boomers (second graph). In Utah, there are 956,000 people ages 5 to 24 that will be supplying the workers over the next 20 years, while 513,300 of the baby boom generation pass into retirement.
Utah’s relatively young, large, educated, energetic and growing workforce are important characteristics for our continued above average economic success. It makes it possible to continue with a vibrant economy even as the accomplished and skilled baby boomers move to retirement.

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