A Look at Salem’s Information Sector

A Look at Salem’s Information Sector

by Pat O'Connor

October 3, 2016

We publish employment data on numerous industries and sectors. For some sectors it is fairly self-explanatory what types of businesses are included in the sector; construction, manufacturing, and retail trade are a few examples of that.

It isn't quite as obvious to figure out what types of companies are included in the information sector. The information sector includes:

  • Companies in the publishing industry; publishing includes newspapers, magazines, books and software publishing.
  • The motion picture and sound recording industry is another industry within the information sector.
  • Broadcasting (except internet) is another industry within information; it includes radio and television broadcasting and cable and other subscription programming.
  • Telecommunications is also within the information sector. Telecommunications includes businesses that provide telephone services; cable and satellite distribution services; and internet access providers.
  • Data processing, hosting, and related services is another industry within information.

In the Salem MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), which includes Marion and Polk counties, there were 989 annual average jobs in the information sector in 2015. It is the first time the sector's employment has dropped below 1,000 in the history of the series, which began in 2001. In 2001, Salem's information sector had more than 1,900 jobs. Since 2001 information's employment has had a fairly steady decline over the years, shedding 939 jobs, or nearly half (49%) its employment from 2001 to 2015. Salem's information sector employment losses have been particularly steep, but declines in information sector employment are not unique to Salem. Nationally, information sector employment declined 24 percent from 2001 to 2015, shedding nearly 900,000 jobs. Oregon's information sector declined 17 percent over that time period, dropping 6,900 jobs.

Within the information sector, most of the employment is in the publishing industries and the telecommunications subsectors. That is true in Salem and is also the case for Oregon and the nation. The publishing and telecommunications subsectors are also where most of the employment loss has occurred over the past 15 years, in particular during the 2000s.

Salem's publishing industry accounts for 280 of the 939 lost jobs in the information sector from 2001 to 2015. Publishing's losses represent 30 percent of information's employment losses over that time. The challenges of traditional media competing in the digital age have been a topic in the news in recent years. As newspapers struggle to remain profitable and in business, they have been forced to do more with less. Newspapers and other publishers use fewer workers to generate more content compared with 10 or 15 years ago.

Salem's telecommunications subsector employment was nearly 1,000 in 2001. By 2015 telecommunications employment was less than 400. Those 600 lost telecommunications jobs account for nearly two out of three of the jobs lost in the information sector from 2001 to 2015. Telecommunications evolution over the past 15 years has seen a change where not nearly as many equipment installers or line installers are needed compared with 15 years ago. The rapid growth of wireless technologies and improved labor saving technological advancements mean that not nearly as many workers are needed to deliver telecommunication goods and services as were needed in the past.

Salem's information sector has experienced large structural changes over the past 15 years that have resulted in steep employment declines. However, some potential good news is that the employment declines have slowed significantly in recent years. Since 2011, information has shed roughly 100 jobs. That compares with more than 800 jobs that were lost in the sector from 2001 to 2011.

Information Workers by Age and Gender

Men held 62 percent of the jobs in Salem's information sector in 2015. Statewide, nearly 64 percent of information jobs are held by men. In Salem, the overall workforce across all industries is nearly identical between the genders, with men and women each holding 50 percent of Salem's jobs.

Salem's information sector has a larger share of workers in their prime working age (ages 25-54) compared with Salem's total workforce. Across all industries in Salem, nearly 64 percent of workers are in their prime working years. In Salem's information sector, 67 percent of workers are in their prime working years.