Phone: 614-228-4201

Navigating the Decline: Addressing Ohio’s Shrinking Working-Age Population and the Role of the Aging Workforce

Introduction: Despite an evidently strong labor force indicated by the latest Department of Job & Family Services jobs report, with a 3.6% unemployment rate below the national average and a high employment rate, Ohio faces a nuanced challenge.[1] The influx of investments from companies like Honda, Intel, and Google is shifting labor dynamics, highlighting a growing concern for skilled labor as more roles emerge, particularly in technology and construction.

A Core Issue: The decline in the working-age population (ages 18 to 64) presents several challenges for Ohio’s economy. This group forms the backbone of the labor force, drives consumer spending, and significantly contributes to tax revenues.

Aging Population: As baby boomers move into retirement, Ohio sees an increasing proportion of older residents, leading to a smaller active workforce. This trend, detailed in our Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future report, affects industries statewide and strains retirement and healthcare systems.[2]

Aging Workforce Rejoining the Labor Market: In response to labor shortages and personal financial needs, a growing number of retired individuals or those approaching retirement age are rejoining the workforce.[3] This trend helps mitigate some of the labor shortages but also brings complexities:

  1. Workplace Adaptation: Businesses need to adapt workplaces to be inclusive of older employees, considering factors like flexible working hours and ergonomics.
  2. Skills Development: Older workers often require upskilling or reskilling to stay relevant in the changing job market.

Medicare and Retirement Plan Implications: The return of older adults to the workforce has implications for Medicare and retirement plans:

  1. Medicare Eligibility and Coverage: Older workers might opt to delay Medicare enrollment if they gain access to employer-provided healthcare, impacting the dynamics of healthcare coverage and costs.
  2. Retirement Plan Contributions: Continuing to work allows older individuals to contribute more to their retirement plans, potentially leading to a more secure retirement.

Economic Implications: The shrinking working-age population and the re-entry of older adults into the workforce present various economic challenges and opportunities:

  1. Labor Shortage: Some sectors face acute labor shortages, impacting productivity.
  2. Economic Growth: A smaller workforce can limit overall economic expansion, while the re-entry of older adults can provide a temporary boost.
  3. Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Reduced numbers in the younger workforce may lead to a decline in innovation, whereas experienced older workers can bring valuable insights.

Additional Strategies: To address these challenges, Ohio needs comprehensive strategies:

  1. Attracting and Retaining Talent: Enhancing the state’s appeal to young professionals.
  2. Encouraging Immigration: Welcoming immigrants to offset the population decline.
  3. Supporting Family Policies: Implementing policies that promote work-life balance and family growth.
  4. Facilitating Older Workforce Participation: Creating supportive environments for older workers rejoining the workforce.
  5. Second Chance Hiring: Easing reemployment for individuals with nonviolent criminal records.

Conclusion: Ohio’s evolving workforce dynamics, characterized by a declining working-age population and the reintegration of older workers, present complex challenges requiring adaptive solutions. By embracing these shifts, Ohio can build a resilient and diverse economic future. 

We at the Ohio Chamber Research Foundation invite your ideas to tackle these issues. Please share your thoughts at to contribute to a stronger economy and community in Ohio.




Back to News

614-228-4201  |  34 S. THIRD STREET, STE 100  |  COLUMBUS, OH 43215


Design by Marcy Design