(SAVANNAH) Recovering opiate addicts in the Hostess City react to a new, rare report from a Wall Street investment firm that delves into the economic impact addiction to the drug is having across the country. Goldman Sachs economists produced the report, released last week, which highlights a dire economic consequence tied to rising drug crisis: the labor force participation rate. The opioid crisis has major costs for the U.S. economy. The report says the epidemic is intertwined with the story of declining prime-age workers in the labor market.
Recovering opiod addicts at the Savannah Mission, like Kari Sealander, a former social worker, says she’s lived the findings of the Wall Street report. “I lost my job and uh, ya’ know, I didn’t even try to look for another job because I was addicted to the opiates…and I just found that there was no hope searching for another one.” said Sealander. Robbie Androvette says he started abusing opiates when he was 15. Now, seven years later, he’s in recovery. Androvette says he’s worked entry-level positions in that time, moving from one job to another, but in his experience, addiction drains the will to do a good job even when you get hired. “You’re gonna try and get the , but you’re gonna do it, you know, three-quarters or halfway and uh, but that’s…and you only do the job to support the habit…until you get confronted, ya’ know, with a drug test.” Androvette said.
The report points to other effects on the economy, beyond the labor market participation rate, like like lost worker productivity, rising costs in the criminal justice system, and the strain it puts on healthcare system. The most recent study estimates the cost in dollars and cents at $78.5 billion dollars. The labor force participation rate, the number of people working or actively looking for work, has fallen since the Great Recession and has stagnated near 63 percent for the last four years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This stagnation comes despite monthly jobs reports, such as the one due Friday, showing a steady pace of job creation and a decline in unemployment. If the opioid epidemic prevents the participation rate from increasing, the Federal Reserve may not be able to fulfill the full employment part of its dual mandate for achieving a strong economy.
Sealander and Androvette epidemic is the right word to describe opiate abuse. “It is widespread. It is everywhere. It doesn’t discriminate, um…and the jobs are available.” Sealander said. “And the fact that it’s affecting more than just, ya’ know, a low level street person, the middle class, to the high class, there’s some thing way deeper inside of that.” said Androvette. Calls to the Georgia Department of Labor for Peach State statistics were not returned.