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Housing stands in an area of the South Bronx experiencing an epidemic in drug use, especially heroin and other opioid based drugs. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The opioid crisis tearing through communities across America has kept working-age men and women out of the labor force at a rate that is hurting the national economy, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Why it matters: Labor force participation is used to calculate the unemployment rate released by the federal government each month, with people not considered to be in the workforce — including those incapacitated by addiction — left out of the overall percentage. Per CNBC, this could present "a potentially skewed picture of the employment situation."

By the numbers: Appearing in front of the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, Chairman Powell cited a 2017 study by Princeton economist Alan Krueger, which suggested the increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could partially account for the observable decline in labor participation during that same period.

  • Between early 2000 and 2015, the LFP rate dropped from 67.3% to a 40-year low of 62.4%.
  • 40% of prime age men (25 to 54 years old) not in the labor force report taking pain medication on a daily basis. Two-thirds of that group report taking prescription pain medication on a daily basis.
  • Krueger attributes about half of the decline in LFP to shifting demographics, meaning the population of working age Americans is simply getting older.
  • But his analysis also suggests that the increase in opioid prescriptions could account for 20% of the observed decline in LFP for men and 25% for women.

The bottom line: In the last 15 years, the LFP rate fell more in counties where more opioids were prescribed.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO blames predecessors for manufacturing woes

Axios on HBO

When it comes to Intel's recent manufacturing problems, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger places the blame squarely on his predecessors — many of whom he notes were not engineers deeply steeped in chip technology, as he is.

Why it matters: Gelsinger has announced a broad plan to reinvigorate Intel by doubling down on manufacturing. However, the strategy depends on the venerable semiconductor giant recovering from recent stumbles.

Marketing to Generation Alpha

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Marketers are pouring money into figuring out the tastes and habits of Generation Alpha — kids born from 2010 through 2024 — who are unprecedented in the extent they're growing up online.

Why it matters: They're weaned on TikTok, Amazon and in-app purchases. They're learning from their millennial parents to hold brands accountable for causes like social justice and sustainability. And no prior age cohort will be as large in size or marketing power.