Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oregon's Counties Continue to See Unemployment Rates Decline

Benton County had Oregon’s lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April 2016 at 3.4 percent. Grant County (7.8%) registered the highest rate for the month. Ten of Oregon’s counties had unemployment rates at or below the statewide rate of 4.5 percent and 16 were at or below the national rate of 5.0 percent. Sherman and Curry counties saw their unemployment rates improve over the year by 2.2 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points, respectively; more than any other counties.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose in all of Oregon’s six broad regions between April 2015 and April 2016. The largest job gains occurred in Central Oregon (+4.9%). The Willamette Valley (+3.1%), Portland (+2.7%), Southern Oregon (+2.3%), Eastern Oregon (+1.7%), and the Oregon Coast (+1.4%) also saw growth.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Employment in Coffee, Tea, and Snack Food Manufacturing in Oregon

You don’t really need them (some of us do), but the temptation is too great: snack food employment rose by 33 percent from 2010 to 2015, while coffee and tea brewed up a mean pot of its own, rising by 34 percent.

Coffee and tea manufacturers roast coffee, blend tea, and manufacture coffee and tea concentrates. The industry was spread across 14 Oregon counties in 2015. Multnomah County led the industry with 26 employers, followed by Lane and Washington counties with seven units each. Multnomah County represented about two-thirds of the state’s coffee and tea manufacturing in 2015 with an average firm size of about 26 jobs. The remaining one-third of the industry’s jobs was dispersed across 13 counties with an average size of around 10 jobs. Employment rose by nearly 8 percent in 2015, a gain of about 70 jobs. Since 2010, employment in coffee and tea manufacturing has risen by about 350 jobs.

Oregon represented 5 percent of U.S. coffee and tea manufacturing employment in 2014. Just 30 states disclosed employment in 2014, and Oregon ranked fifth nationally. Oregon’s location quotient (LQ) relative to the U.S. hovered at about 4.0 in 2014. An industry's location quotient measures the concentration of employment in one area relative to a larger reference area. Multnomah County’s LQ was more than double that level, at 9.4, followed by Lane County (5.2) and Washington County (2.7).

Snack food manufacturers operated from 11 Oregon counties, although the industry’s employment profile was dominated by a few large firms. With 930 jobs and 18 employer units in 2015, the average firm size was about 51. The industry’s employment rose by about 100 jobs or 12 percent in 2015. Since 2010, employment in snack food manufacturing has risen by about 310 jobs. Relative to the U.S., snack food manufacturers in Oregon produced a location quotient of 1.25 in 2014. Oregon was one of 36 states that disclosed snack food manufacturing employment in 2014, representing roughly 2 percent of the U.S. industry total.

To learn more about coffee, tea and snack food manufacturing in Oregon, read Regional Economist Dallas Fridley's full article "The Other Food Manufacturing Group: Starring Snack Food, Coffee, and Tea".

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Drinking Water and Wastewater Operators, the Work Behind our Water

When you turn on your faucet and fill a glass with pure, clean water, do you ever wonder how it got there? When you rinse your glass and the water spills down the drain, do you think about where it goes? For most of us, we take this modern wonder for granted and can’t imagine life without the convenience of running water in our homes. My grandmother sure would have appreciated it. She needed to carry five buckets of water a day from an open well to provide all the water she needed for her family, and she could not have imagined the sophisticated infrastructure used to deliver water to households in a modern American city.

Today, drinking water and wastewater operators use computerized systems to monitor plant processes, operate equipment to purify water, and process and dispose of wastewater. The American Water Works Association projects that almost 50 percent of today’s drinking water and wastewater operators will retire within the next five to 10 years. In Oregon, replacements make up 83 percent of the total annual openings due to the aging labor force and retirements. As retiring operators empty the ranks of the profession, there are great opportunities for workers seeking career advancement, higher wages, benefits, flexible work schedules, choice of employment location, and employer-supported trainings.

“This occupation could be a great fit for veterans that are coming from the military with a lot of transferable skills in mechanics, equipment operation and engineering,” says Mark Ingman, program coordinator at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Wastewater System Operator Certification Program.
In 2015, the average annual wage for this occupation was $50,484, which is defined as a high-wage occupation. Wages for this occupation are high across the state. The highest average wages are in the Portland-Metro area with $54,885, Lane area with $54,697, and Rogue Valley with $52,503. High wages are also paid in Northwest Oregon ($50,546), East Cascades ($50,451), and Mid-Valley ($50,219).

To learn about work opportunities for drinking water and wastewater operators, read Economist Felicia Bechtoldt's full article "Drinking Water and Wastewater Operators, the Work Behind our Water".

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Construction Employment Growing, but Still Below Peak

Since April 2015, job growth has been rapid in construction (+7,900 jobs, or 9.6%). Last month construction gained 1,000 jobs. Despite the strong job growth, construction has yet to regain its pre-recession employment levels.

This chart is about construction employment during housing busts and their recoveries. It compares construction employment in Oregon during the Great Recession (purple line) with construction employment during the early 1980s recession (green line). We set the pre-recession level of employment at 100, and employment is each month is relative to the pre-recession peak level.

It took about 10 years from the start of construction employment losses in 1979 for the number of jobs to get close to that level again, and another five years (through the early 1990s recession) before employment fully returned to its late 1970s level.

Construction job losses were bad during the Great Recession, but not quite as bad as in the early 1980s in terms of percentage losses.

Oregon Adds Jobs at Brisk Pace in April

Oregon’s payroll employment grew by 5,700 in April, following a revised gain of 3,800 in March. The April gain was close to the average pace seen over the past 12 months. Oregon’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.5 percent in April, the same as it was in March, and down significantly from 5.7 percent in April 2015.
In April, several major industries added jobs at a brisk pace. Professional and business services hired the most, adding 2,400. Next in line was government, which added 1,500. Three other industries added close to 1,000: health care and social assistance (+1,100 jobs); construction (+1,000); and other services (+1,000).

Manufacturing dropped by 1,300 jobs in April. Most of those losses were in durable goods manufacturing; however, Oregon’s semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing industry added jobs in April.

A record 64,100 nonfarm payroll jobs were added in Oregon over the past 12 months, for an annual growth rate of 3.6 percent. The next closest over-the-year gain occurred in May 1997 when 61,500 jobs were added.

For more information on this month's news release, visit our press release page.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bud Tender: An Emerging Occupation in Oregon

Marijuana dispensaries are the storefront of the marijuana industry, and the occupation most common in those establishments is a cannabis dispensary technician, also known as a “bud tender.” Those are the people who stand behind the counter with a dizzying array of cannabis flower varieties that are available for sale.

According to dispensary owners, at the end the day, it’s a retail business and the same attributes you would want in someone selling shoes at a shoe store are similar to what you would want in someone working behind the counter at a marijuana store. Employers expect their bud tenders to have excellent customer service skills and be very knowledgeable about the products they are offering.

Wade Hall, the owner of Top Shelf Wellness Center in Phoenix, discussed his employee handbook, which not only covers the usual rules and regulations that any business would expect his employees to know, but also the complex and quickly evolving rules and regulations that apply to the cannabis industry in Oregon. He also tests the knowledge of his employees about regulations and the marijuana industry in general. His bud tenders need to understand the software and computer system that tracks customers and sales, making sure that they abide by laws limiting sales to seven grams per person per day, and that they are collecting accurate taxes on recreational sales as required by the State of Oregon.

One of the rewarding aspects of Mr. Hall’s new business is seeing how cannabis has proven to help his customers, either for pain suppression, appetite increase, or in one instance he told about seizure relief that was previously not obtained through traditional pharmaceutical remedies and prescription drugs.

One of the Top Shelf Wellness Center employees, Dale Nielson III, spoke at length about really understanding how different strains of cannabis, based on their genetics and strain, would affect those who consume it. He had a detailed notebook of chemical compounds that different strains possessed, whether it was an “Indica” or “Sativa” strain, and percentages of compounds such as TCH and CBD – acronyms for some of the chemicals in cannabis that induce an uplifting feeling, or more of a relaxing sensation.

To learn more about bud tenders and trends in sales and customers, read Regional Economist Guy Tauer's full article "Bud Tender: An Emerging Occupation in Oregon"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Oregon's Business Establishments on a One-Mile Grid

Employer establishment addresses from Oregon's 2014 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data were geo-coded into a grid of one square mile sections. The state grid consists of 97,790 individual square mile sections. Each blue section represents one square mile that had at least one establishment.  

All of Oregon’s 141,000 establishments were located in just 8,386 square mile sections, or about 9 percent of the total state grid. Almost 40 percent of the blue sections had only one covered establishment present. The highest density section, located in downtown Portland, had more than 3,000 establishments. 

The top three industries by number of establishments in the state were:  other services (which includes repair, maintenance, and personal services) at 15 percent; professional, scientific, and technical services (11%); and health care and social assistance (10%).

Friday, May 6, 2016

Top 15 Skills Employers Look for in Job Applicants

Regardless of whether you have a bachelor’s degree or just graduated from high school, the top 15 skills employers seek for high-skill, medium-skill and low-skill occupations are similar according to estimates based on O*NET data. For the purposes of this analysis, high-skill occupations are occupations that require a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctoral or a professional degree; medium-skill occupations require post-secondary training (non-degree) or an associate’s degree; and low-skill occupations require a high school diploma or less. 

The top 15 skills employers look in job applicants are:
  • Writing - communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience
  • Active learning – understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making
  • Active listening – giving full attention to what other people say, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times
  • Speaking – conveying effectively information to others
  • Reading comprehension – understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents
  • Critical thinking – using logic to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions
  • Monitoring – assessing performance, making improvements and taking corrective action
  • Judgement and decision making – considering the costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate solution
  • Complex problem solving – identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions
  • Time management – managing one’s own time and the time of others
  • Coordination – adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions
  • Service orientation – actively looking for ways to help people
  • Social perceptiveness – being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do
  • Negotiation – bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences
  • Persuasion – persuading others to change their minds or behavior
  • Instructing – teaching others how to do something.
To explore the skills, abilities, occupational interests, work activities, organizational context, work styles, work values, tools and technology used for an occupation, visit O*NET and search for the occupation you are interested in. To find out the latest information on wages, employment, job growth and education required for an occupation, visit Occupation Profiles of Quality Info.

To learn about the most common abilities and work activities required to perform a job, read Employment Economist Felicia Bechtoldt's full article "O*NET Helps Individuals Make Informed Employment Decisions". 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The 1960s: Oregon’s Creative Decade

The 1960s were a vibrant and creative decade for Oregon when the accomplishments of notable Oregonians first brought us out of the woods and inspired the world. In 1962, Ken Kesey published One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Two years later, the iconoclastic Senator Wayne Morse, the first U.S. Senator to change political parties while in office, led the opposition to starting the Vietnam War. That same year, a small Eugene company sold 1,300 pairs of shoes labeled Nike out of the trunk of a car. In 1969, Steve Prefontaine joined the University of Oregon track team, beginning a career that would establish him as the greatest distance runner in history.

Those events helped define the Oregon we know today. Examining the economy in the 1960s may seem like a silly exercise in nostalgia. But, economists are often asked to peer into the crystal ball and forecast the conditions of the future. While no one can really know the future, we can look back at where we were decades ago and marvel at the changes that have occurred. By looking at the road we have traveled, perhaps we can gain some insight into the challenges we face in the decades ahead.


The Oregon we know today is much larger than it was 50 years ago. Our population was just 2 million people, half of what it is today. Oregon has a reputation for its lack of diversity. Today Portland, the largest city in Oregon, is the least diverse large city in the U.S., with 71 percent of the population identifying as white, non-Hispanic. But at the time of the 1970 U.S. Census, Oregon was much more homogeneous, with people of color representing only 4 percent of the state population.

Oregon is also well known for attracting migrants from around the United States. Most Americans live in the same state they were born in. However, in Oregon natives are a minority of the population. According to the 2014 U.S. Census, only 46 percent of Oregonians were born in Oregon. That makes Oregon one of only 14 states where natives are a minority.

Manufacturing Trends

In 1964, Oregon’s economy was dominated by the timber industry. A little more than half of all manufacturing jobs were in timber related sectors: lumber mills, paper mills and wood furniture. With about one out of six non-farm jobs in a factory or mill that processes wood, the timber industry was undoubtedly the most powerful force in the economy. In 2015, the wood product manufacturing sector employed 22,500 workers, representing about 12 percent of all manufacturing employment.

These days, the high-tech sector employs many more manufacturing workers than wood product manufacturing in Oregon. The high-tech sector of Oregon manufacturing in 1964 was small but emerging. Less than 5,000 people worked in the “Electric measuring instruments and test equipment” segment of manufacturing. 

To learn more about the demographics, manufacturing and income trends, read Workforce Analyst Christian Kaylor's article "The 1960s: Oregon's Creative Decade".

Monday, May 2, 2016

Clearing the Haze Surrounding Marijuana Employment

Marijuana use was first legalized in Oregon to some extent when the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) was approved in 1998. More recently, Oregon’s new recreational marijuana laws went into effect July 1, 2015. The law allows people 21 years of age and older to possess and use recreationally in a private household. It also allows the sale of recreational marijuana through licensed retailers. Soon after the legalization of recreational marijuana, the Oregon Employment Department received several inquiries about how much employment there is in marijuana-related businesses. Although it’s too early to say where employment levels will settle out, we do have some early indications.

Records of approved dispensaries are kept with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which did a survey to provide insight into current business practices. The survey was conducted between February and March of 2015. At the time, there were 230 certified dispensaries in Oregon. At the time of writing this article, there were 413 registered dispensaries, 326 of which are certified for retail recreational sales.

The survey found that the average dispensary employed six workers, with an average of 186 weekly hours worked per dispensary. The average wage per employee was $11.96 per hour and 9.6 percent of employees were covered by employer health insurance. Although there is an error range to any survey data, this survey suggested about 2,478 full- and part-time employees in dispensaries at the time of the survey.

More complete data will be available as the OLCC begins issuing licenses for recreational marijuana. As of January 1, 2016, the OLCC began accepting applications for licenses for labs, processors, producers, retailers and wholesalers. A separate license is needed for each activity and a nonrefundable application fee applies.

OLCC also separates license applications by county. The top counties at the writing of this article were Multnomah (113), Lane (79), Clackamas (75), Jackson (74) and Washington (71).

Read the full article "Clearing the Haze Surrounding Marijuana Employment", written by Regional Economist Brian Rooney. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Students and Online Education in Oregon

It is well known that a significant number of college students are enrolling in something called “online” or distance education – never having to attend face-to-face classes. These students are comfortable communicating through technology and managing their learning without having to show up at a particular place and time. These students are often older with careers and families and want more control over their life and education.

According to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, the annual number of students attending Oregon’s public universities has grown from 109,003 in 2004-05 to 131,645 in 2014-15, or by 21 percent. This growth in student enrollment has been surpassed by the growth in the number of students taking online courses.

The number of students taking at least one online course has grown by 141 percent – from 14,074 (12.9%) in 2004 to 33,896 (25.7%) in 2014. The number of university students taking only online classes also increased from 2,306 in 2004 (2.1%) to 15,129 (11.5%) in 2014. Conversely, the percentage of university students not taking any online courses has been declining from 92,623 (85.0%) in 2004 to 82,620 (62.8%) in 2014.

Oregon’s Community College student enrollment has fallen faster than online enrollment. Total student enrollment fell from 353,945 in 2006-07 to 307,503 in 2014-15 (-13.1%). During this same period, the number of students taking any online courses increased from 57,453 to 67,437, or by 17.4 percent.

Distance education has made higher education more accessible – especially to working adults, caregivers, students with disabilities, and others who have schedules and responsibilities that are incompatible with attendance in traditional, face-to-face classroom instruction. Throughout the past 10 years, student enrollment in online courses continued to grow at a higher rate than overall student enrollment in colleges and universities. There still are some challenges, though, as outlined by the Instructional Technology Council (ITC) which is a non-profit organization that represents nearly 400 institutions offering distance education courses in the United States, Canada, and around the world. The challenges cited by ITC include:
  • Colleges need to offer better preparation for first-time online students so they will be ready to learn on day one.
  • The lack of computer and internet access for a portion of the population severely impacts students’ ability to access online offerings.
  • Student retention in online courses tends to be 8 percentage points lower than that of face-to-face instruction, according to ITC. Online students need to be self-disciplined to succeed. Many students underestimate how much time online coursework requires and others fall behind due to responsibilities of work and/or families.
To learn more about online education in Oregon and the U.S., read Workforce Analyst Lynn Wallis' article "Growth in Distance Learning Outpaces Total Enrollment Growth."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

High Labor Force Participation in Portland and the Columbia Gorge

After several years of decline, Oregon's labor force participation rate has stabilized over the past few years, and increased in recent months. Today we're taking a look at the county level to see how labor force participation rates vary across the state.

The labor force consists of two parts: those (ages 16 and up) who are employed, and those who do not have a job but are available to take a job, and have actively searched for one within the past four weeks. The labor force participation rate is the number of people in the labor force as defined above, divided by the total civilian (non-active military duty) noninstitutional (not in prison or the like) population ages 16 and older.

If you select one or more counties in the dynamic graph below, you can see the share of the population participating in the labor force for every year between 2000 and 2015.

In 2015, Hood River posted the highest labor force participation rate (75.5%) of any county in the state. The next-highest participation rates occurred in the Portland area: Washington County's rate was 67.4 percent, and Multnomah's was 66.0 percent. Hood River, Washington, and Multnomah counties also ranked among the top four counties in terms of labor force participation rates in 2000.

Hood River County's LFPR looked essentially the same in 2000 and 2015, but in most counties labor force participation rates dropped notably over the 15-year period. Multnomah County's participation rate fell by 7 percentage points, and Washington County's declined by nearly 10 points. Just three counties recorded higher labor force participation rates in 2015 than in 2000: Malheur, Sherman, and Wheeler.

Although Oregon has seen a recent slowing and even reversal of the falling labor force participation rate, the state's LFPR declined by almost 8 percentage points from 2000 and 2015. In the long term that declining trend is expected to continue, as the bulk of the Baby Boomers reach retirement age. That's paired with historically low labor force participation rates in younger age groups. More information about Oregon's labor force participation rate can be found in the Employment Department's full report on the topic.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Semiconductor Manufacturing in Oregon - 2015

Intel recently announced plans to reduce its worldwide workforce by 12,000 jobs, with half of the reduction occurring this year. The company has not said how the layoffs will impact its Oregon facilities, but the announcement brings up a lot of questions about how many and what types of jobs might be affected in Oregon. Intel is part of Oregon’s semiconductor and electronic components manufacturing industry. Although we don’t have information specific to Intel, there is a lot of information about jobs in the overall semiconductor manufacturing industry.

In 2015, there were 148 establishments in Oregon’s semiconductor and electronic components manufacturing industry. The industry employed a total of 29,142 jobs during the year, with a total payroll of more than $4 billion. That was roughly 4.7 percent of all the wages paid in the state last year. The annual average wage is $138,487, which includes bonuses. That’s close to three times the annual average wage for Oregon’s private sector.

A lot of jobs in the semiconductor manufacturing industry are high paying, but not all workers earn close to the industry average. The highest paying occupations tend to be managers, engineers, computer or sales specific occupations. Production occupations, such as semiconductor processors and electrical and electronic equipment assemblers, tend to earn much less.

Nearly three out of four jobs (73%) in the industry were held by men in 2014. Across the overall economy, the share of jobs is more evenly split, with 51 percent of jobs in Oregon held by men.

There are not a lot of younger or older workers in the industry. In 2014, very few jobs in the industry were held by workers under the age of 25 years (3%) or age 65 years and older (2%).