The Silver Lining to the Silver Tsunami

Every week I read, watch, or hear discussions about the inevitable “Silver Tsunami” – regarding the aging of the workforce – that is making its way to the economic shore of Minnesota.

I frequently provide data and insight to many different organizations about how the state’s shifting demographics will change the labor market. Typically those who request the information have a fear of this looming, long-term shortage in our labor supply. Many employers with great retention and loyal employees will be burdened with a large share of their workers retiring in a short timeframe, with fewer numbers of possible replacements.

Enter the Silver Lining
During the recession, many recent college and high school graduates struggled to find a place in the economy due to the limited number of job opportunities. The tables have turned since that dark period in our country’s economy, and business expansions coupled with a wave of retirements is creating an environment ripe with new job opportunities.

Not all industries are being impacted by these changes at the same rate, however. A shift-share analysis of age cohorts in the workforce sheds light on which industry subsectors have the most potential for career progression. The chart below illustrates the change in the share of jobs held by workers 55 years and older from 2004 to 2014, over and above the change for all jobs. Because the Silver Tsunami will affect nearly every industry, this analysis can be used to pinpoint what industries should have a higher share of retirements than normal.


Interestingly, the sector that saw the fastest increase in the share of jobs held by workers ages 55 or older was museums, historical sites, and similar institutions, which increased 22 percent faster than the rate for all jobs in Central Minnesota from 2004 to 2014!

If those workers in that sector begin to retire in the near future, there will likely be new job opportunities for current employees in that industry to move up, and in turn create openings at the bottom of the career ladder, unless those jobs are left unfilled. Similarly, all ten industries on the chart should have a higher proportion of job opportunities for not only gaining employment, but also career progression for current employees.

Of course we don’t know for certain how many of these workers age 55 and older will retire or when, but common logic and the current returns on retirement investments tell us that a good portion will retire and thus create an opening, an opportunity, and a chance for a new generation to take the reins.

Other variables to consider are job openings using DEED’s Job Vacancy Survey, as well as long term Employment Outlook Projections.

For more information contact Luke Greiner at 320-308-5378.

Posted on April 17, 2015 .