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.
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.
|Pre-Recession RV Manufacturing Workers Four Years Later|
|3Q2011 Industry of Employment||Number of Jobs||Percent of Total|
|Professional and Business Services||625||8.6%|
|Educational and Health Services||311||4.3%|
|Leisure and Hospitality||295||4.0%|
|State & Local Government||237||3.2%|
|Natural Resources and Mining||130||1.8%|
|Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities||82||1.1%|
|Workers with no Oregon wages reported in 3Q2011||2,651||36.3%|
|Total workers in RV Manufacturing in 3Q2007||7,303|
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.
|Median and Average Wages for Workers in RV Manufacturing and All Jobs in Oregon|
|Third Quarter 2007||Third Quarter 2011||Percent Change|
|Remained in RV Manufacturing||Mean||$17.79||$17.37||-2.4%|
|Different Industry in Third Quarter 2011||Mean||$16.45||$17.12||3.9%|
|Not in Wage Records||Mean||$16.43||NA||NA|
|All Jobs in Oregon||Mean||$22.92||$25.13||8.8%|
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.