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Oregon's Economy: Employment

Crater Lake in March. (Photo courtesy Travis C. Peterson)

Crater Lake in March. (Photo courtesy Travis C. Peterson)



Oregon’s labor force is nearly two million strong. Three out of five of the state’s working age population is involved in the labor force. Some are currently looking for a job, many are working for themselves, and 1.7 million are employees working at the 136,000 business establishments and government entities across the state. Employment in trade, transportation and utilities accounts for nearly one out of five Oregon jobs, making it the state’s largest industry sector. Federal, state and local government jobs are the next largest group, followed by private education and health services, and professional and business services.

Nearly every industry in Oregon was hit hard by the “Great Recession.” Overall job growth resumed in March 2010, and all the major sectors turned the corner and were adding jobs by early 2014.

Professional and business services added 28,500 jobs during the recovery so far, the most of any sector. Mining and logging, a relatively small sector in terms of number of jobs, added 1,300 jobs and had an average annual growth rate of 5 percent, the fastest growth of any sector.

The trade, transportation, and utilities sector has added 22,700 jobs since the recovery began. Private educational services, driven by increasing enrollments, and health care and social assistance,
driven by an aging population, never suffered net job losses during the recession. They have added a combined 19,000 jobs during the recovery. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels and recreational activities, added 17,800 jobs. Other services, which include businesses such as repair and maintenance shops, personal and laundry services, and religious and membership organizations added 3,100 jobs.

The manufacturing sector lost the most number of jobs during the recession, but has been adding jobs back at a steady pace. So far, 15,500 jobs have been added during the recovery, with 11,300 of those jobs at durable goods manufacturers. In particular, businesses that produce wood products, machinery, and computer and electronic products have been hiring the most workers. The other 4,200 jobs were added by manufacturers of nondurable goods such as food and beverages.

The construction sector lost a larger share of its jobs than any other sector in Oregon. It was a few years into the recovery before construction firms started hiring, but they were hiring again in 2013. Construction has gained back 10,200 jobs during the recovery.

Oregon’s information sector is in flux, with hiring in software publishers being pared by cuts by newspaper, book and directory publishers. Many of the post-recession job gains in this sector have been in Oregon’s growing motion picture and video production industry.

The financial activities sector, which is closely tied to the real estate market, experienced a boom and bust in employment similar to the construction industry, and employment levels continued to fall as the rest of the private sector recovered. Financial activities lost 2,100 jobs during the recovery, but the sector recently began hiring again.

Governments cut 5,800 jobs over the course of the recovery, driven by reductions in funding of local education and spending at the federal level. Local educational employment has stabilized, but federal cuts are expected to continue.

By early 2014, Oregon had added back about 80 percent of the jobs lost in the recession. That means an additional 29,000 are needed before the state reaches the peak level of employment seen prior to the recession. Forecasts suggest that Oregon will return to pre-recession employment levels in 2015.


The food services and drinking places industry tops Oregon's employment list. Shown above is the Rainbow Cafe in Pendleton. (Oregon State Archives)

The food services and drinking places industry tops Oregon's employment list. Shown above is the Rainbow Cafe in Pendleton. (Oregon State Archives)

Oregon’s Top Ten industries by Employment in 2013

1. Food services and drinking places (132,400)


2. Administrative and support services (85,500)


3. Ambulatory health care services (76,200)


4. Hospitals (53,400)


5. Specialty trade contractors (46,700)


6. Nursing and residential care facilities (45,400)


7. General merchandise stores (40,400)


8. Food and beverage stores (39,800)


9. Computer and electronic product manufacturing (36,600)


10. Social assistance (33,400)