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Cleveland’s current and future prosperity may rest on the shoulders of older workers

Emily Campbell
Chief Executive Officer
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July 17, 2023
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Workforce development efforts often target young people, focusing on the next generation of workers and the transition from school to career. These efforts will pay dividends down the line. But the fastest way to meet employer demand and fuel our economy today is to unleash the potential of the existing labor force. Older workers present a unique opportunity to both address community needs and fuel Cleveland’s prosperity.

 Older workers present a unique opportunity to both address community needs and fuel Cleveland’s prosperity.

More than half of Ohio workers who received unemployment benefits in the past year are older

While much of the economy has recovered from the upheaval of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, older works may be left behind. Over 60 percent of Ohioans who reported receiving unemployment benefits in the past year are between the ages of 55 and 64, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. In 2021, there were nearly 10,000 people in Cuyahoga County in that age group who were unemployed but actively looking for work. If each of those workers found a job earning the median household income for their age group, there could be an additional $670 million of earnings in our county. We can’t afford to leave that money on the table.  

When older workers are disconnected from employment, the impact on public finances is doubled due to lost tax revenue and increased need for public assistance. Labor force participation rates drop off beginning with people in their late 50s, as some become discouraged and give up looking for work. Yet people in this age group often have significant financial responsibilities including mortgages, supporting their families, and planning for retirement. Without earned income, many must rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

 When older workers are disconnected from employment, the impact on public finances is doubled due to lost tax revenue and increased need for public assistance.

Meanwhile, this age group is rooted in place and essential for thriving neighborhoods. Householders between the ages of 55 and 64 in Cuyahoga County are the most likely to own their homes, and over one quarter of all owner-occupied homes in the City of Cleveland are owned by people in this age group.

Workers have similar needs, regardless of age; older workers can bring extra benefits

Older workers need the same things as younger people to be able to access employment opportunities. These include reliable transportation, family sustaining wages, and paid time off to take care of themselves and their loved ones. Older workers bring many advantages as they often have job history, soft skills, and specialized knowledge accumulated over the course of their careers which may not be easily replaced.  

There are a number of exciting efforts across Greater Cleveland to address worker shortages in key industries, to better connect employees to job opportunities through transportation initiatives, and to create good jobs. Ensuring that these efforts benefit both older and younger workers can benefit everyone.

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