Friday, November 21, 2014

Oregon Business Employment Dynamics: Fourth Quarter 2013

by Ken Lux, Research Analyst, Oregon Employment Department

From the high point of approximately 1,490,000 private sector jobs in late 2007 to the low point of the 2008 recession the Oregon private-sector economy lost in excess of 200,000 jobs. Some three years later the job recovery is finally close to returning to that previous high level.

The number of jobs gained from opening establishments declined from 17,281 in the third quarter of 2013 to 16,061 in the fourth quarter of 2013. At the same time the number of jobs gained at expanding establishments also declined from 81,913 to 80,766. As a result, the number of gross job gains dropped by 2,367 to 96,827.

Increases in the number of gross job losses at both closing establishments and contracting establishments resulted in the number of job losses growing from 87,165 in the third quarter of 2013 to 92,724 in the fourth quarter. The combined effect of these changes was a seasonally adjusted net employment gain of 4,103 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2013. 

Read Ken's full article and get more on Oregon's Labor Market and

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oregonians More Likely to Have High-Speed Internet Access

High-speed internet access is more crucial than ever in managing daily life. It's affecting how we communicate, teach, learn, shop, do business, and spend leisure time. Those without high-speed internet access are at a growing disadvantage as these activities continue to transform. In 2013, to get a more accurate picture of internet access across the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau began surveying computer ownership and internet access in the United States.

Last week, the Census Bureau published an article on findings from the first release of these data, and made a nice infographic ranking states by population with high-speed internet. Oregon's high-speed internet access ranked 13th in the nation at 82.4 percent, which was higher than the national average of 78.1 percent.

While Oregon has greater access than the nation as a whole, access is not equal among counties. Note that since this survey is in its initial phases, data are only available for geographic locations with population higher than 65,000, or 15 of Oregon's 36 counties.

Benton County had the highest percentage of individuals with high-speed internet access at home (89%), which put Corvallis metro highest among all metro areas in the nation. You can read more about it in this OPB story: Census Report: Corvallis Residents Most Likely to Have High-Speed Internet

Douglas County had the lowest of Oregon’s counties (with available data to date) with 71 percent.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oregon added 9,900 jobs in October

The state's payroll employment shot up by 9,900 in October. Most major industries added jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, with three showing solid strength: professional and business services (+2,700 jobs); manufacturing (+2,200); and health care and social assistance (+2,000).

Professional and business services accelerated its hiring trend in recent months. Its 2,700-job gain in October was the largest of the major industries. Over the past 12 months it added 12,600 jobs, which is more than one-quarter of all of Oregon’s over-the-year payroll employment gain.

The companies in this broad industry include services firms such as legal, engineering, computer systems design, corporate offices, employment services, business support, and building services.

Two industries within professional and business services grew at especially fast rates over the past year. Employment services, which includes employee leasing and temporary help supply, added 3,700 jobs or 9.9 percent. Services to buildings and dwellings added 1,300 jobs or 6.4 percent.

Another sign of an improving labor market is declining long-term unemployment. The number of Oregonians unemployed for more than 27 weeks declined steadily over the past four years. In October, approximately 33,000 Oregonians had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. This is down from more than 100,000 during much of 2010.

You can find more information about Oregon's employment situation in today's video news conference and full written release. Both are available on the press release page of

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Computer Programmers: The Minds Behind the Machines

Computer programmers are an important component of Oregon’s dynamic high-tech industry. They are charged with creating, modifying, and testing the code, forms, and script that allow computer hardware and software applications to run. Programmers must possess a keen understanding of user needs and the creativity to customize products accordingly.

In 2012, nearly two-thirds of computer programmers worked in the Portland Tri-County area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties). Hourly wages in 2014 varied from $19.81 for entry-level positions to $51.80 for experienced workers at the highest end of the pay scale. Statewide, the median hourly wage was $35.87 with an average (mean) annual wage of $73,606, making this group a high-wage occupation. For all occupations in Oregon, the median hourly wage was $17.52 and the average (mean) annual wage was $46,441.

For more on computer programmers, read Jill Cuyler-Crook's article: Computer Programmers: The Minds Behind the Machines.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Oregon's Help Wanted Online Ad Volume Increased in October

Online job ads increased by about 1,300 in October, according to The Conference Board's Help Wanted Online (HWOL) data series. This was a modest increase, and continues Oregon's upward trend in online ads. Online ads are used to gain some insight into labor demand.

Since January 2013, an index of total ads shows that Oregon's ads have grown more than ads for the United States as a whole.
You can find more information about HWOL in Oregon by taking a look at the full monthly summary on the Publications page at

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014: Hire a Veteran!

Last year, there were almost 350,000 veterans in Oregon who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Today, the country honors its veterans, those who embody skills like leadership, teamwork, efficiency, respect, and integrity. These skills are essential while serving in the armed forces, but are also a great asset for businesses seeking workers after completion of service.

In 2013, 159,000 veterans in Oregon were either employed or unemployed, a labor force participation rate of 46.1 percent. Of those in the labor force, 5.9 percent were jobless. This was under the statewide rate of 7.7 percent for the year.

There are a number of advantages for employers that hire veterans. These include the valuable skills listed above, but also resources and incentives.  Read more about hiring a veteran in Shannon Langley's article: Hire a Veteran!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Oregon Nonemployers: Businesses With No Paid Employees

Oregon has more than 260,000 nonemployer establishments. In total, these businesses bring $11.7 billion in receipts into the Oregon economy. These figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau, which defines nonemployers as: businesses with no paid employees, with annual business receipts of $1,000 or more ($1 or more in the construction industries), and that are subject to federal income taxes. Most nonemployers are self-employed individuals operating very small unincorporated businesses, which may or may not be the owner’s principal source of income.

Nonemployer businesses come in a few flavors. Most are individual proprietorships, which account for 86 percent of nonemployers in both Oregon and the nation. In Oregon, individual proprietorships number close to 226,000. A much smaller number of Oregon nonemployers have organized their business ventures as partnerships. Oregon had almost 25,000 such businesses in 2012. Finally, the smallest number of nonemployers are classified as corporations, with 11,000 establishments meeting that definition.

The number of Oregon nonemployer establishments dipped from 2007 to 2008, at the very beginning of the Great Recession, but then climbed slowly back to about the same level in 2012 as the peak in 2007. It's possible that as people lost wage and salary jobs heading into the recession, some of them decided to start businesses. When those businesses earned $1,000 or more in receipts, they were added to the roles of Oregon nonemployer establishments.

For more information on nonemployers in Oregon, including nonemployers by industry and location, check out Employment Economist Jessica Nelson's article: Oregon Nonemployers: Businesses With No Paid Employees.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Job Vacancies in the Portland Area

Each quarter, the Employment Department releases a snapshot of job vacancies for Oregon and five, broad sub-state areas. Once per year, we pull together more in-depth annual data on job vacancies for the state and the various regions. We were recently asked for some more detailed information about job vacancies in the Portland tri-county area (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties).

Here are a few key points:
  • In 2013, Portland tri-county vacancies paid an average of $17.11 per hour.
  • Most vacancies were for permanent positions (83%), full-time positions (69%), and required prior experience (80%).
  • Businesses reported that 40 percent of job vacancies were difficult to fill. Primary reasons for difficulty filling positions included a lack of applicants or a lack of qualified candidates.
  • Industries with the largest shares of vacancies that were difficult to fill included natural resources and mining, other services, construction, and administrative and waste services.
 For more information about job vacancies in Oregon, take a look at our quarterly job vacancy snapshots or annual survey news release. Both can be found on the publications page of the new QualityInfo website!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Employment-related Halloween Fun Facts

It's that time of year for pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, and costumes. Here are a few Halloween fun facts:

The number of chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery manufacturing establishments in Oregon during 2013

Oregon’s number of sewing, needlework and piece goods establishments in 2013, for those inclined to create homemade costumes

The number of Oregon farms that harvested pumpkins for sale in 2012

The number of occupied housing units statewide in 2013 for Oregon trick-or-treaters to visit

Friday, October 24, 2014

Beyond the Binary Curtain: Oregon's Data Processing and Hosting Industry

The construction of multiple data centers in Oregon during the past decade has brought more attention than usual to a small and secretive part of Oregon’s economy: Data processing and hosting. The data processing, hosting, and related services industry is tracked within the broader information sector of the economy – which we most associate with “high-tech” and the Internet. 

Oregon’s information sector remains a small part of the state’s economy – only consisting of around 32,000 jobs in 2013 – despite dominating the news cycle. Data hosting is an even smaller portion of that pie. Approximately 3,519 people or 0.2 percent of the state’s workforce were employed in the data processing and hosting industry in 2013. In contrast, California employed 23,600 and Washington employed 5,188 people in the industry. 

Statewide staffing patterns show that the data processing and hosting industry is dominated by educated employees. When looking at the top 10 occupations in the industry (Table 1), seven require a bachelor’s degree to be competitive. 

More interesting than overall employment in the data processing and hosting industry is the wages these employees receive for their work. Data from Oregon’s covered wage records (which do not include self-employed workers) shows that data processing wages grew during the year ending in the first quarter of 2014. Workers were paid an average of $51.45 per hour, compared with a median wage of $37.79 per hour.

The Employment Department estimates that employment in the information sector will grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the state as a whole. Regardless of future staffing levels, technology will continue to evolve to try to meet society’s demand for connectivity. As such, Oregonians can expect to hear (or read about) the low hum of more servers in the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Employee Tenure Increased During Recessionary Years

Median tenure for employees 16 and over in January 2014 was 4.6 years. This estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics means that half of all workers in January 2014 had been working for their current employer for more than 4.6 years, and half of all workers had been working for their current employer for less than 4.6 years.

Changes in employment levels and the unemployment rate were the focus of the most recent recession, but employee tenure saw a shift -- although perhaps less dramatically -- during this period too. In fact, between 2008 and 2012, median employee tenure jumped from 4.1 years to 4.6 years. Median tenure did not change between 2012 and 2014.

Tenure likely increased for a number of reasons. First, tenure tends to rise as the population ages. Since employee tenure naturally increases with age (on average), an increase of workers in older age brackets push median tenure up. Another reason for an increase in tenure is a decrease in job openings and hires. A decrease in job openings and hires means employees are more likely to stay put in current positions.

As median tenure has increased over the past decade, the gap between tenure for men and women has narrowed. Both groups increased tenure, as population increase and the recession affected both groups, but an increased labor force participation rate among women has helped to close this gap.

Median tenure is lower for those with less than a high school diploma. Despite this, there is not a distinct relationship between longer tenure and higher educational attainment. For example, high school graduates had a median tenure of 5.8 years in January 2014, but those with a bachelor's degree had a median tenure of 5.4 years.

Median tenure varies quite a bit depending on one's occupation, and tends to increase as wages increase. Management and professional (6.2 years), education (6.2 years), and protective service workers (6.5 years) have longer tenures, while food prep (2.2 years) and personal care service (2.9 years) workers have shorter median tenure. All occupations saw an increase in median tenure between 2006 and 2014.

For more on median tenure in the United States: Employee Tenure in 2014.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Education Pays: Career Earnings by College Major

The more education an individual has, the more likely he or she is to earn higher wages. As discussed in one of our recent posts, in 2013, a worker with a bachelor's degree earned a median wage of $1,108 a week, while a worker with a high school diploma earned $651.

Workers with a bachelor's degree do earn more, but they also have to (usually) forgo four years of full time work to earn the degree. Despite losing out on earnings these four years, however, a recent analysis by The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution shows that a bachelor's degree is well worth the investment.  

Higher earnings by workers with a college degree are not much of a surprise, and it is not much of a surprise that these wages translate to higher lifetime earnings. A more interesting question is, after (or before) deciding to attend college, which major should a student choose? While education pays, which areas of study make investing in a college education pay off even more?

A series of interactive charts put together by The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution helps to answer this question. The charts allow searches across a number of majors and education levels, but here is a quick summary of a few occupations:

Notice that computer science majors have higher annual earnings that nursing majors, journalism majors, and high school diploma earners at almost every point in their careers. Looking at nursing majors, annual earnings don't increase as much as annual earnings for journalism and computer science majors, but the earnings do start off at the highest level of the measured occupations.

How do higher annual earnings for computer science, nursing, and journalism majors translate into lifetime earnings? The chart below breaks down lifetime earnings (in present value) for each of these majors.  

To do an analysis with majors of your choice, see The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.