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Report: Rate of ‘prime working age’ residents in decline since pandemic

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(The Center Square) – The number of working Massachusetts adults age 25 to 54 has declined since the pandemic’s onset, according to a recently released report.

Analysts with Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit, public policy organization, stacked up states’ working-age employment rates from the first quarter of 2020 and compared them to the first quarter of 2023.

In the report – authored by Pew researchers Joanna Biernacka-Lievestro, John Hamman, and Page Forrest – 24 states were found to have lagging employment rates in what has been described as the “prime working age” cohort of the labor market.

Massachusetts, with a 1.2% decrease in the three-year comparison, was among the half of the country that has been in decline.

According to the report, 83.6% of the state’s prime working-age adults participated in the workforce in the first quarter of 2020. Three years later, the rate declined to 82.4%.

Explaining the basis for the report and its findings, Biernacka-Lievestro, Hamman, and Forrest said a diminished labor market can have a number of negative consequences.

“Changes in employment rates can affect both sides of a state’s budget ledger,” the report states. “More people without jobs typically translates into higher demand for government services and reduced tax revenues.”

In all age groups, Massachusetts is outperforming the national unemployment rate, based on statistics from state officials.

Data from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reveals the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May – the most recent reporting period available – was 2.8%. Nationwide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in that same time period was 3.7%.

According to the state agency’s figures, the total unemployment rate heading into the summer was in decline. The revised April unemployment rate across the state was 3.1%.

A number of industries reportedly gained jobs as the second quarter of this year got underway. Education and health services, transportation, utilities, and manufacturing were among them.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Massachusetts gained 105,100 jobs from May 2022 to May 2023.

While Massachusetts is outpacing the national unemployment rate and gaining jobs, the executive office’s data also reveals labor force participation is declining.

The May rate – factoring in residents age 16 and up who worked or are actively seeking works in the past four weeks – indicates 64.7% participation, down 0.1% from the month prior. Compared to May 2022, participation in the same metric dipped 0.7%.

West Virginia had the largest three-year decline – 5.4% – in the Pew study. Utah had the highest gain from 2020 to 2023, increasing its 25- to 54-year-old workforce 3.8%.

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