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.

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