Opioid use disorder suppresses Missouri’s labor force participation rate by an estimated 3% among workers ages 25 to 54, according to a study by the American Action Forum. Only Arkansas and West Virginia experience greater losses in labor force participation due to opioid addiction.

University of Missouri Extension researchers built on this study to estimate the economic impacts of opioid use disorder in eight key sectors—agriculture, mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and health care. This analysis found that the Missouri economy loses an estimated 26,400 workers due to opioid addiction in a given year, but these impacts are far greater considering the ripple effects that these losses have in the form of reduced productivity, loss of output, diminished spending power and indirect job losses in other parts of the economy.

The analysis was shared as part of MU Extension’s Building a Stronger Workforce in Missouri, a March 18 forum held in partnership with the Missouri Rural Health Association, the Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Creating and sustaining recovery friendly workplaces is viewed as an important step in mitigating the impacts of substance use disorder on Missouri’s workforce and economy.

The report, Economic Impact of Opioid Use Disorder in Missouri, is by Mark C. White, state specialist with the MU Extension labor and workforce development program, and Alan Spell, assistant extension professor in agricultural and applied economics with MU Extension’s Exceed—Regional Economic and Entrepreneurial Development program.

“The key takeaway from our analysis is that when we lose people to opioid use disorder, it has significant consequences elsewhere in the economy,” White said. “Widespread, system-wide problems need comprehensive solutions.”

Based on 2019 employment levels, the direct loss of 5,500 jobs due to opioid use disorder in the manufacturing sector alone leads to an estimated 9,200 additional lost jobs elsewhere in the economy. Fewer workers may reduce a company’s capacity, which, in turn, affects suppliers and their workforce needs, White said. Those lost wages also result in less spending across the economy, affecting demand for retail or other services.

For every 10 manufacturing jobs lost to opioid addiction, 16.7 more jobs are lost elsewhere in Missouri. Opioid-related losses in the state’s manufacturing sector can also lead to an estimated loss of $934.5 million in labor income, $1.56 billion in value added and $4.36 billion in output elsewhere in the economy.

Estimated overall annual opioid-related losses in the other sectors analyzed:

Agriculture: 2,052 total jobs, $36.2 million in labor income, $94.6 million in value added and $236.8 million in output.

Mining: 330 jobs, $17.7 million in labor income, $35.2 million in value added and $83 million in output.

Utilities: 693 jobs, $56.7 million in labor income, $137.3 million in value added and $307 million in output.

Construction: 6,518 jobs, $364.8 million in labor income, $490.3 million in value added and $994.6 million in output.

Wholesale trade: 6,324 jobs, $432.7 million in labor income, $769.3 million in value added and $1.38 billion in output.

Transportation and warehousing: 4,347 jobs, $230.5 million in labor income, $343.3 million in value added and $633.1 million in output.

Health care: 15,243 jobs, $854.3 million in labor income, $1.2 billion in value added and $2 billion in output.

Many Missouri employers already express difficulty in finding workers to fill key positions, especially those requiring specialized skills. Reduced labor force participation due to substance abuse can shrink the talent pool even more.

“What these numbers show is that opioid use disorder isn’t just a challenge for individual workers or for the individual employer,” White said. “It has major consequences for entire key industries in Missouri and for the state’s economy at large. If we are going to address this problem as part of addressing our workforce needs, we must look for bigger solutions.”

The full report is available at extension.missouri.edu/mx54.