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Expand chart
Reproduced from Krueger, 2017, "Where have all the workers gone? An inquiry into the decline of the U.S. labor force participation rate"; Note: Labor data is change in labor force participation (LFP) between 1999–2001 and 2014–16. Opioid data is morphine milligram equivalents (MME) prescribed per capita, 2015. All data is for adults 25-54; Map: Axios Visuals

The labor force has fallen significantly in places with high concentrations of opioid prescriptions over the past 15 years, meaning that employers often have a direct interest in combatting the opioid crisis.

Between the lines: As the economy continues to strengthen and more jobs go unfilled, the business impact of those out of the workforce and struggling with opioid addiction will become only more noticeable.

By the numbers: There's plenty of research suggesting that the country's declining labor participation rate — the number of people who are out of work and not looking for it — is intertwined with the country's opioid crisis.

  • The increase in opioid prescriptions between 1999 and 2015 could account for 20% of the decline in men's workforce participation over that same period, according to a study done by Princeton's Alan Krueger last year.
  • Almost half of men who aren't in the workforce take pain medication on any given day, and two-thirds of those men take prescription painkillers, according to the same study.
  • Counties with high opioid prescription rates have a labor force participation rate that is 4.6% lower for men and 1.4% lower for women than counties with a low prescription rate, according to a paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

What they're saying: Certain areas and industries are feeling the effect of the opioid epidemic more than others, even though the epidemic has affected families across the country either directly or indirectly.

  • "It affects businesses [to] the point where companies are struggling to fill positions ... because there are drug test failings on a rapid and significant basis," said Katie Mahoney, vice president of health policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, adding that industries like construction and manufacturing have been particularly affected.
  • "The bigger problem is those who aren't even showing up to take the drug test because they are not looking for work," Sen. Rob Portman wrote in an op-ed earlier this month.
  • "Our goal should be to get more people out from the grips of addiction and into the workforce where they can have the dignity and self-respect that comes with having a job. Businesses need to get more involved in finding solutions," Portman added.

Go deeper

By the numbers: Census to show first decline of white population

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau via Brookings Institute; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The latest census is expected to show the first decline in history for the nation's non-Hispanic white population, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Brookings Institution's William Frey.

Why it matters: The U.S. is rapidly moving toward a majority-minority population — with the racial and ethnic diversity most apparent in younger cohorts. "This really is moving in a direction that’s going to favor the issues and the political agendas of these younger people," Frey told Axios.

32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats plot filibuster workarounds

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several Democratic lawmakers are moving away from calls to eliminate the filibuster while privately discussing alternatives to bypass it, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: These talks have ramped up in earnest following the Republicans’ move Tuesday to block a measure to protect and expand voting rights.

32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Infrastructure's remaining potholes

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

President Biden declared victory in announcing the bipartisan infrastructure package. Now comes the hard part: negotiating with his own party on the separate reconciliation bill.

Why it matters: By trying to simultaneously pass two massive spending bills, Biden and congressional leaders are attempting a legislative feat that will likely require Congress to work through its August recess — and potentially well into the fall, according to lawmakers and senior staffers.