The nearly fourfold increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for 20 percent of the overall decline of men in the U.S. workforce during that time period, according to the report, “Where Have All the Workers Gone? An Inquiry into the Decline of the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate,” by Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger.
In 2015 alone, the opioid and prescription painkiller addiction epidemic resulted in 33,000 American deaths, particularly impacting rural areas in the Northeast, Appalachia, and the Midwest, according to the report.
“Labor force participation has fallen more in areas where relatively more opioid pain medication is prescribed, causing the problem of depressed labor force participation and the opioid crisis to become intertwined,” Krueger writes.
Fortune reports that some employers in those regions have openly said they are struggling to find sober job applicants.
“President Donald Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, but his administration has reportedly not yet followed through on the administrative steps that would free up resources to combat opioid addiction,” Fortune writes.
Opioid addiction — now at a 12-year high — is one of the major reasons why men ages 25 to 54 have dropped out of the workforce or are unable to work or find work, according to HRDive.
Currently, men have an 88.4 percent participation rate in the U.S. labor pool, which is slightly higher than the record low in 2014. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in a congressional hearing last month that opioid use is keeping employers from finding enough workers.
“Employers, who are already struggling with recruiting and hiring in a workers’ job market, now are grappling with drug addiction cutting into the talent pool, HRDive writes.
The website cites research by Cleared Matched, an employment screening and investigative company, which found that the percentage of employers conducting drug tests has risen by 30 percent in the last several months, and that job candidates failed 25 percent to 50 percent of the time.
“The first step in reversing the opioid epidemic is getting addicts into treatment,” HRDive writes. “Federal lawmakers and the Trump administration have vowed to address the problem with funding. Opioid addiction is a societal dilemma that requires lawmakers, employers and employee advocacy groups to work together to address the epidemic.”