Cleveland Fed Paper Connects Opioid Prescriptions, Joblessness

A pill bottle spills out onto a table
[Kimberly Boyles / Shutterstock]
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Increased opioid prescriptions may have driven down participation in the labor force, according to a March working paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Researchers from the Cleveland Fed found that higher rates of opioid prescriptions are connected with less employment nationwide.

“We think there’s strong evidence that opioids had a negative effect, particularly on men with a high school degree or less,” Senior VP Mark Schweitzer, one of the paper’s authors, said. “We also find that that’s true not just for white men, but also for minority men.”

The percentage of working-age men who have jobs or are looking for them has been falling for decades in the U.S. This paper found that opioid prescriptions could account for 44 percent of that decrease since 2001.

The drop in employment was stronger among minority men without a bachelor’s degree than with white men of the same education level, the paper found. Prescriptions were connected with a smaller decrease in employment among women.

The fed researchers discussed their findings at a talk Monday night.

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