BOSTON (SHNS) – The number of people between the ages of 20 and 64 in Massachusetts peaked in 2018, has declined by 50,000 since then, and is projected to fall by another 120,000 by 2030, a trend that a leading business group says will constrain the state’s economic opportunities and requires aggressive countermeasures.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, in a report released Wednesday, said the state’s population was aging and growing at a slower rate before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the trends have been “exacerbated” by more employees being able to work remotely and move to take new jobs in a tight labor market.

MTF President Eileen McAnneny said the state’s talent pipeline is contracting, a threat to sectors that have traditionally helped the state economy motor along, like higher education and health care.

“Policymakers must proactively work to reverse this trend by making Massachusetts a more affordable and competitive place to be in order to ensure the Commonwealth’s future economic growth,” McAnneny said in a statement. “Gone are the days we can count on Massachusetts’ exceptionalism to attract the best and the brightest.”

The aggressive actions that MTF is recommending include reducing the high cost of housing relative to other states and improving the reliability of transportation options, ensuring that investments in education and reskilling are preparing people for employment, and incenting students, workers and retirees to stay in Massachusetts to maximize the available pool of talent.

MTF included the following statistics in its report to back up its conclusions:

  • Massachusetts had 289,000 job openings and 129,000 people unemployed in September, suggesting a labor shortage of 160,000. This means there are 2.2 jobs for every unemployed person, double the figure of just five years ago.
  • The number of births in Massachusetts has declined by almost 30 percent in the past 30 years to 66,200, the second lowest figure since 1940 when the state’s population was 2.7 million lower than today.
  • Massachusetts has lost hundreds of thousands of residents over the past few decades who left for other states, and that trend spiked to 46,000 in 2021 “as people took advantage of remote work or labor shortages in other states to find a better quality of life than Massachusetts can offer.” The 46,000 residents who moved elsewhere in 2021 was the fourth-most in the country while the other New England states gained 40,000. And of the 67 New England counties, only nine lost population in 2021, seven of which are in Massachusetts.
  • International immigration, which MTF says for decades more than offset residents leaving the state, plummeted to 12,700, a decline of 35,000 or 75 percent from 2017.