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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)

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Oregon’s labor force is nearly two million strong. Four 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 more than 1.6 million are employees working at the nearly 130,000 business establishments and government entities across the state. Employment in trade, transportation and utilities accounts for nearly one out of five Oregon jobs, making them the state’s largest industries. 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, but a few were able to grow despite the turbulent economy. Private education, driven by the growing population, and health services, driven by an aging population, added a combined 51,000 jobs during the decade, growing at an average annual rate of 3 percent. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels and recreational activities, added 15,000 jobs and grew at an average annual rate of 1 percent. Other services, which include businesses such as repair and maintenance shops, personal and laundry services, and religious and membership organizations, was the only other industry to add jobs. Government added 21,000 jobs during the decade, the bulk of which were local education, state education or tribal jobs.


Mining and logging, an industry with employment in steady yet slow decline for decades, lost 30 percent of its jobs. The manufacturing industry shed one-quarter of its jobs during the decade. Wood products workers lost the most jobs, followed by computer and electronic workers and then transportation equipment workers. Food manufacturing was the only manufacturing sector that was able to add jobs in the midst of the recession. The information industry was hit hard by both recessions of the decade and lost 17 percent of its workers since 2000.


The construction industry rode a wave of housing demand starting in 2004 that led to growth beyond its historical share of total employment. The growth peaked in 2007 and then crashed with the bursting of the “housing bubble.” This brought construction employment back down to near its traditional share of employment, but still nearly 10,000 fewer jobs than at the start of the decade. The financial activities industry, which is closely tied to the real estate market, experienced a boom and bust in employment similar to the construction industry, and employment levels in 2010 were about equal to where they were at the beginning of the decade.


By the end of 2011, Oregon had added back about one-fourth of the jobs lost in the recession. That means an additional 110,000 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 at the end of 2014.

 

Oregon’s top ten employment industries (2011)

 

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