Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Keeping Oregonians Moving: The Automotive Repair and Maintenance Industry
by Andrew R Crollard
Published Apr-22-2014

There were just over three million Oregonians with a driver's license and more than four million registered vehicles in Oregon in 2013. That doesn't include vehicles registered elsewhere that travel into the state. That's a lot of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motor homes on the road with the potential to break down and need some kind of servicing or require regularly scheduled preventative maintenance.

In 2013, there were 2,056 establishments spread throughout the state classified within the auto repair and maintenance industry. That industry includes car washes, automotive glass repair shops, oil change and lubrication shops, transmission repair, and exhaust repair, among other related automotive repair businesses.

Employment Remains Off the Pre-recession Peak
Auto repair and maintenance was one of many industries that were unable to escape the recession from 2007 to 2009. From peak employment in 2007, the industry lost 14.4 percent of jobs, which was a larger percentage than the rate of job loss for total payroll employment within Oregon. The industry experienced a post-recession bottom in 2010 and has increased employment slightly each year since then.

The automotive repair and maintenance industry has not kept pace with the job growth in the general economy over the last decade. Prior to the recession, employment in the overall economy grew about twice as fast as the specific industry. During the recession, the automotive repair and maintenance industry declined by about twice as much as the overall economy. During the post-recession recovery, the overall economy grew at about twice the rate of the automotive repair and maintenance industry. When all was said and done, the overall economy grew by 5 percent over the decade, while the automotive repair and maintenance industry saw an employment decrease of about 10 percent.

Graph 1
Employment level relative to 2003
Growth Projected Within the Repair and Maintenance Industry
The automotive repair and maintenance industry is a subcategory of the broader repair and maintenance industry. This broader industry includes other subcategories of electronic and precision equipment repair and maintenance, commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair and maintenance, and personal and household goods repair and maintenance. The automotive repair and maintenance industry had roughly two-thirds of all employment within the broader industry in 2012.

Over the decade spanning from 2012 to 2022, the repair and maintenance industry is projected to increase employment by 2,400 jobs, or 15 percent. We can't say for certain how much the detailed industry of automotive repair and maintenance is driving the projected job growth in the broader industry, but it is the best approximation we have based on the projections data available. This rate of industry expansion is in line with the projected growth rate for total payroll employment over the same period in Oregon and slightly slower than what is projected for employment growth in the private sector. Should the actual growth of the industry over the decade be close to the projected growth rate, the industry will far surpass the level of employment prior to the most recent recession.

Lower Industry Wages Than Statewide & National Averages for All Industries
The average wage for all employees at privately owned businesses in Oregon was $43,678 in 2012; nationally, it was $49,200. The average wage at privately owned businesses in the automotive repair and maintenance industry in Oregon was significantly lower than both Oregon and national average wages for all industries and came in at $33,558. Oregon's industry wage was slightly higher than the national average wage of $33,241.

The lower wages for the industry are tied in the occupations typically found within automotive repair and maintenance. Of the three largest occupations employed within the industry, none exceed Oregon's average wage for all industries. The largest occupation employed within the industry, cleaners of vehicles and equipment, pays wages significantly lower than the average for the automotive repair and maintenance industry.

Graph 2
Average annual eages for automotive repair and maint workers U.S. & OR 2012
Even though the number of vehicles in Oregon slightly decreased over the last couple of years, there continues to be great demand for their maintenance and repair throughout the state. The automotive repair and maintenance industry is at a lower level of employment than a decade ago and wages within the industry are lower than average wages for the broader economy, but there is hope for the industry's employment in the future. Over the next decade the automotive repair and maintenance industry is projected to grow and likely to exceed the last decade's peak level of employment.