Chart: 23% of Rhode Island workers are now age 55 or older

Rhode Island’s work force is getting older and older in the wake of the Great Recession.

The total number of Rhode Island workers ages 16 to 54 dropped by 55,000 between 2006 and 2013, while the number of workers ages 55 and older rose by 31,000, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey. Those totals include both employed and unemployed workers.

A total of 23% of Rhode Island workers were at least 55 years old in 2013, compared with 17% in 2006.

Here’s a chart comparing the number of workers in each age group in 2006 versus 2013:

RI labor force by ageWhile the growth in Rhode Island’s 55-plus labor force wasn’t enough to offset the decline in its 16-to-54-year-old one, the opposite was true across the broader population. The state’s civilian non-institutional population ages 16 and older grew by 7,000 between 2006 and 2013, thanks to a net gain of 54,000 residents ages 55 and up.

Rhode Island’s population losses between 2006 and 2013 were concentrated in one age group: 35- to 54-year-olds, whose overall number fell by 47,000 during that period – a 14% drop. That decline suggests middle-aged residents either left the state, aged out of the group but weren’t replaced by younger residents, or some combination of the two.

Adults between the ages of 25 and 54 are referred to by economists as “prime-age” workers because they are in the prime of their working lives – focusing on their careers, raising their families and saving for retirement.

Ted Nesi ( ) covers politics and the economy for and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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