Senators Collins, Casey, and Donnelly Call for Examination of Link Between Labor Force Participation and Substance Use

The United States’ labor force participation rate has declined significantly since peaking in the late 1990s.

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a detailed examination of the relationship between labor force participation rates and substance use as well as a review of state and federal policies that may affect this trend.  Over the last two decades, the labor force participation rate among prime-age workers has declined, while the percentage of older Americans in the workforce has increased.  Senators Collins and Casey are the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which Senator Donnelly is also a member of.

“Our nation’s labor force participation rate has declined significantly since peaking in the late 1990s,” wrote Senators Collins, Casey, and Donnelly.  “Substance use appears to be one factor that has affected labor force participation rates. The number of overdose deaths in the United States involving prescription opioids and heroin has quintupled since 1999, and every day 115 Americans lose their battle with opioid addiction.”

“As the opioid crisis devastates communities around the country and millions of Americans continue to find it difficult to return to the labor force, we request a report that explores in depth the relationship between substance use and labor force participation rates, and any state and federal programs that may impact these trends,” the Senators continued.

In a December 2017 report, the Aging Committee confirmed that labor force participation rates have increased among older Americans and declined for prime-age workers. Among workers aged 65 and older, labor force participation has increased from 12.2 percent in 1997 to 19.3 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, among prime-age workers during this same period, labor force participation declined from 84.1 percent to 81.7 percent.  The decline is even more pronounced among men, whose participation rates fell from 91.8 percent to 88.6 percent during this period.

Click HERE to read the letter.