Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fourth of July Brings Fountain of Jobs to Oregon

Oregonians across the state will be celebrating the 238th anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence with barbeques featuring Oregon-grown fare, pies made from Oregon cherries, and fireworks as permitted under Oregon Revised Statutes 480.110 through 480.165. They will also enjoy displays created by Oregon’s professional pyrotechnic companies.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that $203.6 million worth of fireworks were imported from China in 2013. According to the 2007 Economic Census, there could be an equivalent value amount of fireworks and pyrotechnics (including flares, igniters, etc.) being shipped by U.S. manufacturers. This volume of sales generates jobs, although the exact number is as obscure as a neighborhood street filled with lit smoke balls.

Trying to count Oregon’s fireworks-related jobs can make you feel like a lit-up Catherine wheel spinning on a post. There’s no single industry that captures everything related to fireworks. We decided to compile employment and wage data for the six firms with a variation of “fireworks” in their name and the firms we knew sold fireworks, but did not mention it in their name.

Oregon’s fireworks firms are involved in one of four activities: 
  • Toy and hobby goods and supplies merchant wholesalers – businesses that take possession of fireworks before selling them to retailers.  
  • Wholesale trade agents and brokers – businesses that arrange for the sale of fireworks to retailers but do not take possession. 
  • Other direct selling establishments – businesses that sell fireworks without a store. 
  • All other amusement and recreation industries – business that put on firework displays. 
Employment at just the six fireworks firms blooms like a ground flower around the Fourth of July, reaching 178 jobs in July 2013. Their combined average employment was 90 jobs in the third quarter of 2013, with a total pay of nearly $595,000. That works out to an average quarterly wage of over $6,600 per job, equivalent to over $26,000 per year, if they worked all year round. 

We know this is a significant undercount of all fireworks-related jobs because there are currently 750 retail fireworks sales locations permitted by the State Fire Marshal. One-half of these permits are for indoors locations like grocery stores, where it’s impossible to separate fireworks-related employment. The other half are for outside locations in temporary tents or stands, typically as fundraisers. We don’t know how many people are working at these locations, but they are most likely a mixture of employees of the organization and unpaid volunteers.

So think about all the workers behind the black snakes and sparklers you’re enjoying this year. And please remember to be safe and sane. Oregon’s 3,715 fire fighters could use a relaxing Independence Day.

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