Updated Aug 20, 2018

Why businesses have a stake in solving the opioid epidemic

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

AP: China's hidden, growing opioid crisis

Oxycodone, an addictive narcotic pain reliever. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A lack of treatment options, overprescription and little official understanding of the scale of painkiller abuse in China are likely contributing to the spread of opioid addiction in the country, per AP analyses.

What's happening: Drug company Mundipharma has "pushed ever larger doses" of painkillers like OxyContin in China, "even as it became clear that higher doses present higher risks," AP found in November. Mundipharma is owned by the Sackler family, which also owns Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker accused of helping fuel the U.S. opioid crisis.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019

Women outpace men on U.S. payrolls

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Note: Men count was derived by subtracting women count from total; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There are more women on American payrolls than men as of the latest U.S. jobs report.

Why it matters: The data reflects a hiring boom in industries that are female-dominated, while sectors that are more likely to employ men are lagging in job gains. The last time women overtook men in payrolls was “during a stretch between June 2009 and April 2010,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the milestone.

Go deeperArrowJan 10, 2020

Unemployment fell to 50-year low in 2019 but wages stagnated

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's jobs report missed expectations, but still delivered solid numbers, showing the U.S. economy added well over 100,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained near a 50-year low.

The big picture: BLS reported that the number of people who were employed part time but would rather be full-time employees declined by 507,000 over the year.