Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Recreational Vehicle Manufacturing Workers - Where are They Now?
by Brian Rooney
Published Jun-15-2012

 
One of the casualties of the "Great Recession" in Oregon was the recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturing industry. After growing through the 1990s and into the 2000s, RV manufacturing in Oregon peaked at 7,699 jobs in March of 2005. A little over half (53%) of that employment was in Lane County, with the rest spread out across the state.

For the next three years following the peak, the industry was relatively stable, staying between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs. During the following severe national recession that lasted from late 2007 to late 2009, RV manufacturing was hit hard as credit died up, investment returns declined, and jobs were lost. The result was a drop in demand for many products including RVs. RV manufacturing employment dropped to 1,610 by April 2009, a loss of 79 percent from its peak.

We know from the industry data that many relatively high-skilled and high-paying jobs were lost. But what happened to the workers in the RV manufacturing industry as a result of the recession? Were they able to regain employment in the industry? Were they able to transition to other industries? Did their earnings decline or grow?

Using the Oregon Employment Department's Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records, we are able to track workers who were in the industry before the recession and where they are today. The data are collected as part of the unemployment insurance program and provide information on workers' wages, hours worked, and industry of employment. For this analysis, RV manufacturing includes travel trailers and camper manufacturers, motor home manufacturing and two companies from heavy duty truck manufacturing. These two companies, Monaco Coach and Country Coach, manufactured large motor homes built on bus chassis.

Graph 1
Recreational vehicles manufacturing employment
Industries of Employment After Four Years
 
Of the 7,303 workers reported as employed in the RV manufacturing industry in the third quarter of 2007, 858 (11.7%) were still employed in the RV industry four years later. Another 3,794 (52.0%) held a UI covered job in Oregon in some other industry. A significant portion, 2,651 (36.3%) were not found in the Oregon UI wage records in the third quarter of 2011.

More than 1,000 workers - the largest portion that found employment in another industry - worked in some other manufacturing. Of those, food manufacturing at 114 workers and wood product manufacturing at 86 workers were the most common. But workers were spread out across a variety of manufacturing industries. Since RV manufacturing requires many skills, from assembly to automotive to upholstery and cabinetry, workers coming out of RV manufacturing had skills transferable to other manufacturing sectors.

A relatively small amount, 299 (4.1%) found work in the other goods-producing industries such as construction or natural resources and mining. Construction in particular continued to be weak after the recession.

A large portion (33.8%) of RV manufacturing workers transitioned to the service-producing sectors. In the service-producing industries, professional and business services had the highest concentration of former RV manufacturing workers at 625 and most of those were employed by temporary firms, meaning they could have been in a variety of industries.

Some former RV manufacturing workers found work in retail trade (7.0%). Not surprisingly, the most common type of retail for these workers was auto parts dealerships at 127, indicating again that many of those coming out of RV manufacturing were able to use transferable skills to find employment.

Some former RV manufacturing workers transitioned to the education and health services industry (311, 4.3%). Most of those were in health services. Health services has been a growth industry in recent years and it is likely these workers were able to transition to this industry with additional training.

There are a number of possible reasons for the 2,651 former RV manufacturing workers that were not found in the Oregon UI wage records in the third quarter of 2011. Considering the severity of the recession and weak recovery that followed, it is likely most of these workers were either unemployed, had moved out of the state, or gained employment in a noncovered industry such as agriculture or through self-employment.

Table 1
Pre-Recession RV Manufacturing Workers Four Years Later
3Q2011 Industry of Employment Number of Jobs Percent of Total
Other Manufacturing 1,006 13.8%
RV Manufacturing 858 11.7%
Professional and Business Services 625 8.6%
Retail Trade 508 7.0%
Educational and Health Services 311 4.3%
Leisure and Hospitality 295 4.0%
State & Local Government 237 3.2%
Wholesale Trade 187 2.6%
Construction 169 2.3%
Natural Resources and Mining 130 1.8%
Other Services 110 1.5%
Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities 82 1.1%
Financial Activities 75 1.0%
Information 35 0.5%
Non-classifiable 24 0.3%
Workers with no Oregon wages reported in 3Q2011 2,651 36.3%
Total workers in RV Manufacturing in 3Q2007 7,303  
Wages Now Compared With the Base Period
 
Table 2 shows the mean and median hourly wages for those employed in RV manufacturing in the third quarter of 2007. They are grouped by those who stayed in the industry and those who had left by the third quarter 2011. In addition, the mean and median hourly wages for all jobs in Oregon for the same two time periods is shown for comparison. The mean is higher for those who remained in RV manufacturing compared with both groups who left. Presumably, those who had higher skill levels and experience stayed in the industry and caused the mean for that group to be higher.

After four years, both the mean and median dropped slightly for those who remained in RV manufacturing at 2.4 and 2.3 percent respectively. For those who found employment in other industries the mean increased while the median decreased substantially, indicating that a few individuals transitioned into higher-paying jobs while the majority transitioned into lower-paying jobs, likely in the service-producing industries. In comparison, wages increased substantially for all jobs in Oregon.

Table 2
Median and Average Wages for Workers in RV Manufacturing and All Jobs in Oregon
    Hourly Wages    
    Third Quarter 2007 Third Quarter 2011   Percent Change
Remained in RV Manufacturing Mean $17.79 $17.37   -2.4%
Median $14.84 $14.51   -2.3%
Different Industry in Third Quarter 2011 Mean $16.45 $17.12   3.9%
Median $14.55 $12.90   -12.8%
Not in Wage Records Mean $16.43 NA   NA
Median $13.36 NA   NA
All Jobs in Oregon Mean $22.92 $25.13   8.8%
Median $15.00 $16.58   9.5%
Conclusion
 
The Great Recession decimated the RV manufacturing industry in Oregon. Using Oregon UI wage records data, we were able to track workers who were in the industry before the recession and where they transitioned to. Roughly 64 percent of those workers were in jobs covered by unemployment insurance in the third quarter of 2011. The other roughly 36 percent were either unemployed, had left the state, or were employed in a job that is not covered by unemployment insurance such as agriculture or self employment.

Many who left the industry were able to use transferable skills to find work in other industries. A few were able to retrain for health care jobs. But a large portion who found jobs in other industries took jobs with a lower wage in the service-producing industries.