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Oregon's High-Tech Employment Trends - What is High Tech?
by Jill Cuyler-Crook
Published Aug-16-2013

 
The high-tech industry is a crucial and dynamic piece of Oregon's economy. In 2012, employment was close to 90,000 and contributed more than $8.4 billion in covered payroll to the state's workers and families.

Like most sectors, high tech saw significant employment losses during the Great Recession. Employment peaked at 92,844 in July 2008 and began rapidly declining, reaching a trough of 82,844 in November 2009. From peak to trough, the industry shed 10,000 jobs or 11 percent of its workforce. By contrast, total employment across all industries during the same period declined by 7 percent. Fortunately, the industry has rebounded significantly since, although employment is still below pre-recession levels (Graph 1).

Graph 1
Oregon's high-tech employment
What is High Tech?
 
The high-tech industry does not have one standard definition or official classification code. Instead, it is a mix of service and manufacturing businesses from a variety of industries. High tech means different things to different people and organizations.

Prior to 2013, the Oregon Employment Department (OED) defined high tech using three specific computer-related industry codes: computer and electronic product manufacturing; systems design and related services; and software publishing.

In 2013, OED decided to change its definition to include a broader array of industries in which high-tech occupations are highly concentrated. As such, its newer high-tech definition is a better, more comprehensive view of industries that produce innovative, technologically advanced products and services. The 14 industries comprising this new definition are listed in Table 1. This definition also corresponds to ones currently used nationally by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Table 1
High Tech Covered Employment and Wages in Oregon
 Industry Sector 2012 Employment Employment Change from 2011 (%) 2012 Covered Payroll 2012 Annual Average Wage
Total high-tech employment 88,934 2.7% $8,363,672,179 $94,044
Semiconductor and electronic component mfg. 27,917 2.1% $3,473,011,615 $124,405
Architectural and engineering services 12,794 1.8% $887,905,254 $69,400
Computer systems design and related services  11,955 9.1% $1,065,557,438 $89,131
Software publishers  9,129 4.6% $848,618,825 $92,959
Wired telecommunications carriers  5,820 0.2% $367,907,121 $63,214
Electronic instrument mfg. 5,197 3.0% $440,318,113 $84,725
Scientific research and development services  3,824 -0.2% $306,135,519 $80,056
Data processing, hosting, and related services 3,665 -2.3% $335,822,381 $91,630
Aerospace product and parts mfg. 3,122 5.4% $231,075,374 $74,015
Computer and peripheral equipment mfg. 2,692 -7.4% $235,746,016 $87,573
Pharmaceutical and medicine mfg. 875 -2.9% $40,597,443 $46,397
Internet publishing and web search portals 794 9.4% $61,527,112 $77,490
Communications equipment mfg. 593 1.7% $41,156,929 $69,405
Other telecommunications  557 18.0% $28,293,039 $50,795
Industry Landscape, Demographics
 
High tech accounts for 5 percent of all covered employment statewide. Across its fourteen sub-sectors, high-tech employment varies greatly. Nearly one-third (31%) of employment is concentrated in semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing. In fact, employment in this industry is nearly six times more concentrated in Oregon than it is nationally. Other dominant players include architectural and engineering services, computer systems design, and software publishers.

High-tech firms are found all over the state although they are most concentrated in its largest metropolitan areas: Portland, Eugene, Medford, and Bend. They also have a presence along the Oregon coast, the Interstate 5 corridor, and in northeastern Oregon near Interstate 84.

Broadly speaking, high-tech employment is disproportionally male. Males account for 71 percent of employment and females just 29 percent compared with 54 percent and 46 percent, respectively, across all industries (Graph 2). This reflects national trends. High-tech workers are also more likely to be of "prime working age," which is generally defined as ages 25 to 54. More than three-quarters (77%) fall into this age group, compared with 67 percent of workers across all industries. Younger workers (ages 14-24) are not as common, probably due to the years of training it takes to enter the industry. Older workers (ages 55+) represent 19 percent of high-tech employment, compared with 21 percent across all industries (Graph 3).

Graph 2
Statewide employment by sex
Graph 3
Statewide employment by age
High Wages, High Educational Requirements
 
At the industry level, average wages in high tech are some of the highest in the state. In 2012, its average wage was over $94,000. This compares with slightly more than $44,000 across all industries. Between 2011 and 2012, wages in high tech grew by 3.9 percent, compared with a 2.8 percent rise across all industries. Across high tech's sub-sectors, average wages vary greatly, from a high of more than $124,000 in semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing to slightly more than $46,000 in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing (Table 1).

Wages also vary across the occupational spectrum. When looking at the industry's leading occupations, average wages are highest for engineering managers ($134,297), computer and information systems managers ($112,287), and electronics engineers ($103,949). Wages are lowest for the industry's customer service representatives ($34,089), semiconductor processors ($33,698), and electrical and electronic equipment assemblers ($31,724). In high tech, as with other industries in general, higher-wage jobs require a higher level of educational attainment (Table 2). More than one-third (38%) of all jobs in the high-tech industry typically require a bachelor's degree or higher for entry.

Table 2
Statewide Employment in High Tech* - Most Common Occupations
Standard Occupational Code Title 2010
Employment
2013 Average Annual Wage    Typical Education
Needed for Entry
Computer Hardware Engineers 2,573 NA   Bachelor's degree
Engineering Managers 1,814 $134,297   Bachelor's degree
Computer and Information Systems Managers 1,336 $112,287   Bachelor's degree
Electronics Engineers, Except Computer 2,566 $103,949   Bachelor's degree
Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software 1,086 $99,790   Bachelor's degree
General and Operations Managers 1,304 $97,943   Bachelor's degree
Engineers, All Other 1,202 $94,731   Bachelor's degree
Industrial Engineers 1,216 $93,818   Bachelor's degree
Computer Software Engineers, Applications 5,954 $88,501   Bachelor's degree
Civil Engineers 1,510 $80,374   Bachelor's degree
Computer Programmers 1,572 $71,676   Bachelor's degree
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval 1,339 $71,222   Bachelor's degree
Business Operations Specialists, All Other 1,605 $61,908   Bachelor's degree
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians 2,065 $59,066   Associate's degree
Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, Except Line Installers 1,541 $57,922   Postsecondary non-degree award
Computer Support Specialists 2,253 $52,312   Postsecondary non-degree award
Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants 1,216 $49,178   High school diploma or equivalent
Customer Service Representatives 1,696 $34,089   High school diploma or equivalent
Semiconductor Processors 2,108 $33,698   High school diploma or equivalent
Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers 5,194 $31,724   High school diploma or equivalent
* Excludes NAICS 51913 (Internet publishing and web search portals)
A Promising Future
 
The Oregon Employment Department forecasts the high-tech industry will grow by 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, compared with 18 percent growth across all industries. The future is particularly promising for the industry's service sectors, where growth is expected to be even higher.

In terms of total job openings between 2010 and 2020, high tech is projected to have more jobs created through growth (47%) than the average across all occupations (41%). The rest (53%) are projected to come through replacement openings.

Regardless of the losses suffered during the last (and other) recessions, high tech's dominant presence will continue to enhance Oregon's ability to compete and succeed, both locally and globally.