How Aging Baby Boomers Are Reshaping the Labor Force:
As seen on Tire Business’s publication in August of 2023.
By Mike Cioffi
Are you ready for a silver tsunami? Next year, the youngest Baby Boomers—people from the generation born between 1946 and 1964—turn 60 years old. You’ve probably read about the pressure this is already placing on our health care system and social security. But have you thought about how it affects your workplace? The labor landscape is evolving. Business owners and hiring managers need to adapt to attract the talent and skills their companies need to be successful.
As I see it, a big challenge we face from the aging of baby boomers is a labor force that is both shrinking (relative to the overall population) and aging. According to a Washington Post article, the number of workers per retiree, which was 5 as recently as 2008, is now 3.5 and falling. And the workforce itself is changing, with workers over 60 now twice as common as in 1984.
I have some recruiting and hiring advice to offer in the face of these facts, but let’s first look at the current state of the tire industry and the wider economy.
The Economic Data is Uncertain, But the Demographic Data is Clear
July brought big economic news, when the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates to their highest level since 2001. Rising borrowing and debt-service costs will probably be with us for the foreseeable future. This could lead some businesses to scale back plans for expansion or the upgrading of equipment. It could also lead, of course, to a general recession, though that hasn’t happened yet.
In July the economy created 187,000 new jobs, a bit below expectations, and far below the 568,000 of July 2022, but still not a recessionary number. The unemployment rate remains very low at 3.5%, and second-quarter economic growth came in at a respectable 2.4%. Price inflation for June was only 0.2%.
Total employment in rubber product manufacturing and tire manufacturing both rose modestly in the latest data (for June), to 136,700 and 59,600, respectively. A year ago (June 2022) employment was a bit higher in rubber product manufacturing at 137,200, and in tires a bit lower at 58,400. Overall, both the industry and economic data remain middling. Either a soft landing or a recession is probably coming, but there is still too much fog to see which it will be. The data is crystal clear, however, where the aging of baby boomers is concerned. Let’s consider the implications of that.
To Thrive in a Brave New World, Be Brave
Declining birth rates and rising life expectancy both play a role in the current labor market situation. The good news for the economy is that as life expectancy has risen, many older Americans are working longer than their parents did. That’s good news for hiring managers too, because many of these employees have skills that may not be easy to find in the younger population. To retain valuable older employees at your firm, maintain an age-inclusive work environment, and also think about offering flexible and part-time arrangements that might appeal to those looking for a way to keep working as they age.
At the same time, don’t expect baby boomers to work forever. Many have already retired, and many more will in the coming years. You need to develop the skills to replace them in younger workers.
Incentivize your young and mid-career employees to train, upskill and advance their careers in the tire industry. Develop partnerships with academic institutions like colleges and vocational schools so you’ll have a “farm league” of young talent coming along. These institutions do not necessarily have to be just down the street, either. The economy is global, and the Internet can bring much of it to your door, so think about broadening your recruiting footprint if you can’t find what you need locally. With over 900 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is an amazing resource (feel free to connect with me). Another advantage of technology is that artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT are as near as your keyboard. Have you “played” with it yet? These can help with things such as finding data and identifying demographics to target in your recruiting efforts. It can also aid you in writing job descriptions and interview questions. Just ask it questions and see what ideas it comes back with. Between tools like these and an evolving workforce, it’s a brave new world. We need to stay brave and evolve with it to thrive.
Mike Cioffi is the founder of Tire Talent, a boutique recruiting agency dedicated to our industry. You can reach him directly: email@example.com if you have any questions about this article.