Friday, November 11, 2016

Update: Prime Working-Age Population Growing Again

by Bill McBride on 11/11/2016 09:08:00 AM

The prime working age population peaked in 2007, and bottomed at the end of 2012. As of October 2016, there are still fewer people in the 25 to 54 age group than in 2007!

However the prime working age (25 to 54) will probably hit a new peak very soon.

An update: in 2014, I posted some demographic data for the U.S., see: Census Bureau: Largest 5-year Population Cohort is now the "20 to 24" Age Group, Decline in the Labor Force Participation Rate: Mostly Demographics and Long Term Trends, and The Future's so Bright ...

I pointed out that "even without the financial crisis we would have expected some slowdown in growth this decade (just based on demographics). The good news is that will change soon."

Changes in demographics are an important determinant of economic growth, and although most people focus on the aging of the "baby boomer" generation, the movement of younger cohorts into the prime working age is another key story. Here is a graph of the prime working age population (this is population, not the labor force) from 1948 through October 2016.

Prime Working Age PopulatonClick on graph for larger image.

There was a huge surge in the prime working age population in the '70s, '80s and '90s.

The prime working age labor force grew even quicker than the population in the '70s and '80s due to the increase in participation of women. In fact, the prime working age labor force was increasing 3%+ per year in the '80s!

So when we compare economic growth to the '70s, '80, or 90's we have to remember this difference in demographics (the '60s saw solid economic growth as near-prime age groups increased sharply).

See: Demographics and GDP: 2% is the new 4%

The good news is the prime working age group has started to grow again, and is now growing at 0.5% per year - and this should boost economic activity.  And it appears the prime working age group will exceed the previous peak later this year.

Note: If we expand the prime working age to 25 to 64, the story is a little different.  The 55 to 64 age group is still expanding, but that will change in a few years - and that will slow growth in the 25 to 64 total age group.

Demographics are now improving in the U.S., and this is a reason for optimism.