Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Remained at a Record Low of 3.8 Percent in September

Oregon’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in September, the same as in August. These were Oregon’s lowest unemployment rates since comparable records began in 1976. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 3.9 percent in August to 3.7 percent in September.

Oregon’s labor market was unusually tight in September, as indicated not only by the low unemployment rate, but also by the low number of Oregonians who are considered “short-term unemployed.” In September, 80,000 Oregonians were unemployed. Of those, 16,000 had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more (“long-term unemployed”), and 64,000 had been unemployed for less than 27 weeks (“short-term unemployed”). The number of short-term unemployed was quite low historically and was well below levels seen at the end of the prior expansion in 2006 and 2007, when an average of 86,000 people were categorized as short-term unemployed.

In September, Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment grew by a modest 300 jobs, following a revised gain of 2,400 jobs in August. Monthly gains in September were concentrated in leisure and hospitality (+900 jobs) and professional and business services (+800 jobs). These gains were offset by losses in retail trade (-1,300 jobs) and wholesale trade (-800 jobs).

Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment increased by 40,200 jobs, or 2.1 percent, since September 2017. This growth rate is very close to the 2.2 percent annual growth rate the state has experienced over the prior 21 months, cooling off from the 3.0 percent average annual growth rate seen during the prior three years dating back to 2013.

Full press release is available here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Worker Access to Paid Leave Benefits

In the United States, 74 percent of workers have access to paid sick leave through their employers. About the same share has access to paid vacation (75%) and paid holidays (77%). This access varies between the public and private sectors. In private industry, 71 percent of workers have access to paid sick leave and more than three-quarters of workers have access to paid vacation and paid holidays. Among state and local government employees, access to paid sick leave (91%) far outweighs access to paid vacation and holidays (61% and 68%, respectively).

These figures come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey, which includes very little detail at the sub-national level. Oregon is grouped with the Pacific West region, which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. Access to paid sick leave benefits is a bit more widespread in this area of the country compared with the national average.

Almost nine out of 10 workers in the Pacific West region have access to paid sick leave. Access to paid holidays and to paid vacation in the Pacific West matches the national average. Access to all paid leave benefits is more prevalent than the national average in the regional public sector, while the region’s private-sector workforce is more likely than the national average to have access to paid sick leave (86%) and very similar to the nation in terms of access to paid vacation and paid holidays.

Full-time workers – those working 35 hours per week or more at their primary job – are far more likely to have access to paid leave benefits than part-time workers. Eighty-five percent of full-time workers have access to paid sick leave, and even more have paid vacation and holidays. Among part-time workers, 40 percent have access to paid sick leave, 38 percent have paid vacation, and 43 percent have paid holidays.

Union-represented workers are more likely to have access to sick leave and slightly more likely to have paid holidays, but union representation doesn’t raise the access to paid vacation. Nine out of 10 union-represented workers had access to sick leave in March 2018, compared with 71 percent of non-union workers. Access to paid holidays reached 81 percent of union workers and 76 percent of non-union workers. The same share had access to paid vacation, at 75 percent in both union and non-union operations.

The workers with the lowest wages also have the least access to paid leave benefits through their employers. Access to paid sick leave has a direct positive relationship with earnings, with each step up in earnings quartile matched by improved access to paid sick leave. In contrast, for paid vacation and paid holidays, this relationship only holds for the shift between the lowest paid and the next quartile, with the highest half of earners having about as much access to paid vacation and paid holidays as the second 25 percent. 
For more information, read the full article written by Economist Jessica Nelson.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Who’s Driving Oregon’s Wage Growth?

By Damon Runberg

Wages in Oregon have been on the rise over the past three years. From fourth quarter 2014 to fourth quarter 2017, the quarterly average wage (smoothed and adjusted for inflation) rose by around 6.7 percent (+$800 per quarter). This is seemingly good news, right? This means that during that three-year period the average worker had more disposable income when accounting for the increased cost of goods and services.

At a recent presentation where I shared this good news about rising wages I was approached by a member of the audience; let’s call her Sue. Sue said, “I don’t know who is making that sort of growth in their wages, but it isn’t me and it is not anyone I know.” When dealing with millions of workers clearly Sue’s wage growth (or lack thereof) has little effect on the average wage. However, she made an important point. The average wage is not an individual story, but a rough aggregation of all payroll divided by the number of workers. It does not tell us who is seeing higher wages, only that payroll is up relative to the number of workers. This spurred me to ask if we can identify who is driving Oregon’s wage growth.

The Problem with the Average

Sue pointed out an important issue with averages as they can be notoriously misleading. She told me she had worked continually with the same employer the past three years, but she had seen no substantive wage growth. How common is Sue’s story among Oregon workers?

To answer this question I used wage records of Oregon workers between 2014 and 2017. These are employment and wage records by firm for all workers covered by unemployment insurance.

Who Is Contributing to Oregon’s Wage Gains?

The results of the analysis were quite unexpected. The expectation was that incumbent workers, like Sue, were not experiencing particularly notable wage growth. That assumption was wrong.

The real median hourly wage for those who changed their employer one or more times (the job hoppers) between 2014 and 2017 rose by 13.3 percent, very rapid growth. That represented a growth in median hourly wage of $2.92. As expected the incumbent workers posted a slower pace of wage growth, however it was only marginally slower growth than the job hoppers. During the three-year period incumbent workers, those who stayed continually employed with the same firm, saw real median hourly pay rise by 11.7 percent with nearly an identical growth in the median hourly rate (+$2.87 an hour).
Read the full article written by Damon Runberg, regional economist for Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Klamath, and Lake counties. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

10-Year Occupational Projections for STEM Jobs

Twenty-two percent of jobs in Oregon fall into the STEM category (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). You can view the relationship between employment and wages of STEM occupations in the chart-based STEM Employment and Wage Tool.

Most STEM jobs require education and training to learn the skills and knowledge for the job. The typical entry-level education for almost three-quarters (71.3%) of STEM job openings is postsecondary training or higher. Nearly half (47.3%) of STEM job openings require a bachelor’s degree.

Looking at all projected job openings in Oregon, 76 percent of openings that require a doctoral or professional degree are STEM jobs. Forty-nine percent of openings that require a bachelor’s degree and 60 percent that require an associate’s degree are STEM jobs.

More than 400,000 job openings due to both growth in the occupation and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation (for retirement, or move to another type of work, for example) are expected from 2017 to 2027. The growth rate for STEM jobs during this period is 15 percent, which is higher than the growth rate for all occupations of 12 percent. Only 19 out of 286 STEM occupations are expected to decline during the decade.

The Oregon Employment Department has wage data available for 257 of the 286 STEM occupations analyzed in this blog post. Of these 257 STEM occupations, 235 occupations have a higher median wage than Oregon’s median wage for all occupations ($19.09 per hour) in 2018. 
For more information on STEM occupations, read the full article written by Economist Anna Johnson.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Twenty-Three Counties At Record Low Unemployment Rates in August

Benton County had Oregon’s lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 2.8 percent in August 2018. Other counties with some of the lowest unemployment rates in August included Hood River (3.0%), Washington (3.1%), and Wheeler (3.1%). Eastern and Southern Oregon had higher unemployment rates in August 2018, which were still close to their record low unemployment rates since 1990. In Oregon, twenty-three counties had record low unemployment rates in August.

Grant County registered the highest unemployment rate for the month at 6.2 percent, which was Grant’s lowest unemployment rate since comparable records began in 1990.
Eleven of Oregon’s counties had unemployment rates below the statewide unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and thirteen were at or below the national rate of 3.9 percent.

Crook and Sherman counties saw their unemployment rates improve over the year by 1.0 percentage point, more than any other county. Other counties that saw their unemployment rate decrease were Gilliam (-0.9%), Jefferson (-0.9%), and Coos (-0.8%). No county saw their unemployment rate increase in August.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose in all six of Oregon’s broad regions between August 2017 and August 2018. The largest job gains occurred in Central Oregon (+3.1%). Southern Oregon (+2.9%), the Willamette Valley (+2.6%), the Portland area (+1.7%), the Oregon Coast (+1.7%), and Eastern Oregon (0.5%) also added jobs.

Press releases for all Oregon counties are available at

Friday, September 21, 2018

Oregon Construction Employment at Record Highs

Oregon’s construction industry reached a record high number of jobs in recent months, employing nearly 110,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The industry added jobs steadily and rapidly in recent years, following a prolonged slump in 2009 through 2012, when employment remained near 70,000 for several years after the last recession.

Looking back 30 years, clearly the industry has been highly cyclical – experiencing booms and busts over the course of multi-year expansions that were followed by briefer, but potentially precipitous contractions. In the late 1990s the industry hovered close to 80,000 jobs for several years, dropped some jobs in a mild recession and then resumed its climb. Just before the 2008 recession, Oregon’s construction industry was slightly below today’s employment total, at about 104,000 jobs.

During the past several decades, at least since the late 1980s, Oregon’s economy and population have been on a generally expansionary trend. Population typically grew about 1 percent per year, primarily due to net in-migration – more people moving into Oregon compared with the number moving out.

Because the population has been steadily expanding, it can be helpful to look at the construction industry’s total jobs relative to overall employment. This tells us the percent of total nonfarm jobs employed by the industry. Over the past 30 years, construction has employed between 4 percent and 6 percent of Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment. The lowest share during this period occurred in 1992, when 4 percent were employed in construction. Not far behind was the period from 2010 through 2012 when about 4.2 percent of payroll jobs were found in construction.

The housing-price boom leading up to the last recession coincided with the biggest share of construction jobs, as construction employed 6 percent of all nonfarm payroll jobs during much of 2006 and 2007. Currently, Oregon’s construction industry isn’t quite as concentrated as that period, with 5.7 percent of nonfarm jobs in the industry as of July of this year.

Leading up to the past two national recessions, Oregon’s construction employment has either trended downward, as was the case in 1997 through 2000, or abruptly tanked, as occurred just prior to, and certainly during, the recession of 2008 and 2009. The good news is that construction employment in Oregon has grown quite rapidly over the past few years and hasn’t shown any sign of downturn yet.
Learn more about employment in Oregon's construction industry, read the full article written by the Current Employment Statistics Coordinator David Cooke. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lowest on Record: Oregon Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.8 Percent in August

Oregon’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in August, the lowest rate since comparable records began in 1976. Oregon’s July unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in both July and August.

In August, the number of unemployed people dropped to 80,500, which is down from 88,000 in August 2017. The low number of unemployed reflects a very tight job market. Many people just entering the labor force are getting snapped up by employers. In August, there were only about 20,000 new entrants to the labor force who were unemployed; this was only one-third the number of such “unemployed entrants” seen in the early 2010s. This means that there are far fewer Oregonians entering the workforce who can’t find a job. Meanwhile in August, of the unemployed Oregonians, 28,000 had lost their job—a historically low level, given that in 2009 there were five times the number of unemployed due to job loss.

In August, Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment grew by a modest 900 jobs, following a revised gain of 3,400 jobs in July. Monthly gains in August were concentrated in construction, which added 800 jobs, wholesale trade (+800 jobs), and retail trade (+700 jobs). These gains were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality (-1,100 jobs) and government (-600 jobs).

You can find more information about Oregon's current employment situation in the full press release.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Understanding the Reasons for Unemployment

The labor force consists of all residents 16 and older who are employed or who are unemployed and actively seeking work. The numbers of employed and unemployed people are determined primarily by a monthly survey of about 60,000 households nationwide, including roughly 1,000 in Oregon. To avoid double-counting those who hold more than one job, each person in a sampled household is counted only once in the monthly labor force statistics.

A labor force participant is counted as unemployed during the month if, during the week specified in the survey, he or she: had no job, was available for work, and made specific efforts to find work, or
was waiting to be recalled to a job after a layoff, regardless of whether or not he or she was looking for other work.

There are four major categories of the unemployed, based on a reason for unemployment:
  • Job losers, who are on temporary or permanent layoff 
  • Job leavers, who voluntarily left a job and immediately began to look for another 
  • Re-entrants, those who worked, left the labor force, and have begun a new job search
  • New entrants, those who have never worked before and are now seeking employment
Job losers made up the largest share of Oregon’s 101,200 unemployed persons in 2017. Those who lost jobs accounted for 40,300 unemployed persons, or 47 percent of the total. Of these, 9,400 were on temporary layoff.

The share of the unemployed who are job leavers typically varies with the state of the economy. During recessions, fewer people voluntarily leave their jobs since fewer opportunities exist elsewhere. When the economy and labor demand are strong, more people are likely to quit their jobs because they are confident something better will come along. In 2013, as the jobs recovery was really just starting, job leavers accounted for 5 percent of the unemployed. In 2017, job leavers accounted for 15 percent of all unemployed Oregonians.
To learn more about Oregon's labor force, read the full article written by Senior Economic Analyst Gail Krumenauer

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Exploring Living Wages in Oregon

In a recent report prepared for Worksystems entitled The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Oregon 2017, wage measures for self-sufficiency for each Oregon county were developed. This Self-Sufficiency Standard is a wage adequate to pay for housing, childcare, food, miscellaneous items, health care, transportation, taxes, and leave some cash for an emergency savings fund.

The self-sufficiency wage budget is “bare bones” with just enough income to meet basic needs, and no extras. So the food budget includes groceries prepared at home. Transportation includes commuting to work and day care plus one trip to the grocery store per week, no more. It assumes that you have employer-provided health insurance but that you may have to pay a portion of the monthly premium or pay some charges out-of-pocket. There’s no budget for having pizza delivered, going to the state fair, or even a subscription to Netflix. It’s just the essentials, no more.

Self-sufficiency standard wages vary greatly based on family size, location, and family make-up. For instance, a household of one adult does not have childcare expenses while a household with multiple small children may spend up to half of their budget for housing and childcare combined.

When we examine the self-sufficiency standard wage for a family with two adults, one infant, and one preschooler statewide, only 25 percent (about 528,000) of Oregon jobs meet the self-sufficiency wage threshold. The self-sufficiency standard calculates how much income families need to make ends meet without public or private assistance. Colors show hourly wage range necessary for a family of two adults, one infant and one preschooler to be self-sufficient while size of circles shows concentration of jobs in the county.
For this family of four, Washington County is the most expensive of all Oregon counties to live in, requiring $85,022 annually just to meet basic needs, and more than twice the cost for the same family to live in Malheur County ($38,253) which has the lowest self-sufficiency standard wage. Multnomah County is second highest ($84,235), followed by Clackamas ($82,329), Hood River ($73,436), and Benton counties ($72,810). The difference in living expenses from the highest cost county to the lowest is influenced heavily by the much higher costs of childcare, housing, and taxes in the metro area counties. The counties with the lowest self-sufficiency wage for this same family of four are Malheur ($38,253), Grant ($40,805), Gilliam ($41,669), Lake ($42,492), and Josephine ($42,791).

Learn more in the full article written by Northwest Oregon's Workforce Analyst Shawna Sykes

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Specialty Trade Contractors: The Rebound from Recession

Specialty trade contractors are the companies that do the specific activities of skilled work that go into a building or other types of construction, but are not responsible for the entire project. Otherwise known as the “trades” they do specific activities like pour concrete, framing, electrical work, plumbing and painting. The work may include new work, additions, alterations, maintenance and repairs. They are often subcontracted from establishments of the general contractor type, but may also work directly for the owner of the property.

Specialty trade contractors are the largest subsector of the construction sector employing 61,200 workers or 63 percent of the broader sector in 2017. Like the overall sector, specialty trade contractors experienced large losses during the recession, losing roughly 23,500 jobs, or 36 percent of its employment between 2007 and 2010. This was one of the largest industry losses of the recession. In comparison, Oregon’s total all industry employment declined by roughly 7.5 percent from 2007 to 2010.

Since the end of the recession, the specialty trade contractor industry has experienced a strong rebound and is now one of the fastest growing industries. It has added 18,700 jobs for a 44 percent growth rate between the bottom of the recession in 2010 and 2017. This compares to 17 percent for all industries over the same period.

Despite the strong growth, specialty trade contractors had not reached its prerecession annual average peak by 2017. The prerecession peak was 66,000 jobs in 2007. With annual average employment at 61,200 in 2017 and a June 2018 over-the-year growth of 6,000 (9.7%) jobs, it is almost certain that this will be the year when the industry finally reaches its prerecession level.
Read more about specialty trade contractors in the full article written by Regional Economist Brian Rooney.  

Friday, August 31, 2018

Oregon’s Union Membership

Oregon consistently outpaces the U.S. in union membership as a share of total employment. In 2017, 14.9 percent of Oregon’s workers were union members, compared with 10.7 percent for the U.S. Employees who are not union members but whose jobs are covered by union contracts slightly increased the share of union coverage beyond membership rates in both the U.S. and Oregon. The share of covered workers in Oregon totaled 15.7 percent, while the U.S. coverage rate was 11.9 percent in 2017.

Comparable union membership data are available back to 1983, when union membership totaled 17.7 million nationwide and 222,900 in Oregon. The U.S. has not since matched the 1983 membership level; the U.S. coverage level also peaked in 1983 at 20.5 million. Oregon reached its highest union membership (275,300) and coverage (295,000) totals in 1994.

Oregon remains among the most unionized states. In 2017, Oregon’s concentration of total union membership ranked 12th highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state’s public-sector membership (53.1%) ranked 8th highest, and the private sector’s 8.3 percent rate ranked 10th.
Oregon has relatively smaller union membership concentration in private manufacturing and construction compared with other states. In 2017, the union membership rate in manufacturing (8.3%) fell in the middle of the pack, ranking 23rd. In construction, Oregon ranked 15th highest among the states with 19.0 percent membership.

More information on union membership is available in the full article written by Senior Economic Analyst Gail Krumenauer

Monday, August 27, 2018

Where Women Work and How Much They Earn

Nearly 873,000 jobs at Oregon businesses or state and local governments were held by women in 2016. Women represent 49 percent of employment in Oregon, but the share of jobs held by women varies considerably by industry.

Women’s average earnings were $3,444 per month in 2016, which was 69 percent of the $4,963 average monthly earnings of men. The average woman brings home $1,500 a month less than the average man. Like employment, the earnings of women relative to men vary by industry.

The average monthly paycheck for women is about two-thirds the average monthly paycheck for men, but this fact is not a very useful measure of gender pay inequality. Average monthly earnings figures do not take into account other factors affecting pay, such as total hours worked and hourly wages. Adjusting for the number of hours worked narrows the earnings gap between women and men, but still does not account for other factors that can significantly affect pay.

Women’s Average Earnings by Industry

Average monthly earnings of women were lower than that of men in every industry. The ratio of women’s to men’s earnings ranged from a relatively close 86 percent in accommodation and food services to a disparate 56 percent in arts, entertainment, and recreation, and in finance and insurance. There are many factors behind these disparities in earnings, such as the number of hours worked and the relative wages of occupations with higher concentrations of women, but that information is not available from this data source.
Women working in Oregon’s health care and social assistance sector have an average monthly paycheck of $3,696, which is just 62 percent of the men’s average. Women working in finance and insurance have a higher average paycheck than women in most other industries, but their earnings pale in comparison to what men are bringing in. With earnings just 56 percent of men’s, women in finance and insurance receive an average of $3,800 a month less than what men are making.

The smallest disparity is in accommodation and food services, where women’s earnings average 86 percent that of men’s. The large share of minimum wage earners in this industry likely contributes to this relative earnings equality. That near equity has a cost though, as average paychecks for both women and men were lower in accommodation and food services than in any other major industry.

Learn about women's employment by industry in "Where Women Work and How Much They Earn" by state employment economist Nick Beleiciks.