Coos County and Recent Business TrendsJune 18, 2018 The overall industry mix of coastal Coos County tells only part of the story behind the county’s recent economic resurgence. At first glance, the government sector accounts for one out of four jobs. However, unique in Oregon, most of Coos County’s health care and education jobs are within local government districts. This legislative construct permits rural areas, not otherwise positioned to provide a full-range of services, to form and operate taxing districts to build schools, hospitals, etc. Thus, in addition to typical government functions, 37 percent of Coos County government jobs are dedicated to health care and 23 percent are within education. By combining these public sector jobs with those in private sector education and health services, the county’s largest source of employment is associated with education and health care.
Trade, transportation, and utilities also make a strong contribution to Coos County’s economy – nearly 20 percent of employment and the second largest payroll in the county ($142.8 million in 2017) after government. Retail trade accounts for two-thirds of the jobs in this large sector. Retail’s modest payroll, $85 million, reflects the often seasonal and part-time nature of these jobs. Leisure and hospitality jobs account for nearly 12 percent of employment. The total payroll of this seasonal sector is roughly $53.5 million, an average of $20,190 per year.
Professional and business services offers a wide range of employment opportunities. Although the county’s professional workforce, e.g., accountants, attorneys, engineers, are included in this arena, nearly 70 percent of the sector’s employment is generated by staffing agencies and other businesses providing support to area enterprises. The employment levels of these business service providers ebb and flow with prevailing business needs.
Manufacturing and construction, hard hit by the recession that started more than a decade ago, continue to regain lost ground and offer a variety of jobs across the area. Since 2012, manufacturing employment has gained an additional 12 percent and payroll has grown more than 19 percent. During the same time, construction has outpaced all other industries by adding nearly 37 percent to its workforce and more than 63 percent to the value of its payroll.
Focus on Wage Ranges Within Broad Industry Groups
Oregon’s three-tiered minimum wage ranges, with incremental increases scheduled for each July 1 between 2016 and 2022, enable businesses in different geographies to better adapt to local economic conditions. Coos County’s 2017 minimum wage has been $10 per hour; this will increase to $10.50 on July 1, 2018. During 2017, 7.3 percent of the county’s jobs paid the minimum wage. Retail trade, and leisure and hospitality accounted for 30 percent of minimum wage jobs (19.4% and 11.0%, respectively). Nearly two-thirds of the county’s jobs pay less than $20 per hour, and almost all jobs in leisure and hospitality and most of those in retail trade pay less than $20.00 per hour (90.5% and 79.9%, respectively). Sectors offering opportunities at higher wage levels, e.g., greater than $62,000 per year, include local government (37.5%); construction (33.2%); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (24.9%); and financial activities (23.5%).
Contributing to the financial well-being of area residents are the short commuting distances associated with employment. Nearly 60 percent of Coos County’s workforce lives within 10 miles of work, and 18 percent between 10 and 24 miles. For those employed in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, 50 percent live within 10 miles of work, and just over 14 percent commute 10 to 24 miles.
Tourism’s Contributions to Coos County’s Economy
Although most of the tourism-related activities are associated with retail trade, and leisure and hospitality businesses, other businesses contribute to the travel industry’s impact on the county’s economy. Local transportation and gas, air transportation, and food stores also play a role in tourist spending. In 2017, direct travel spending in Coos County was $271.1 million – an increase of 17.5 percent from 2012, according to Dean Runyan and Associates. Nearby Western Douglas County (Reedsport area) reported $60.2 million, up nearly 10 percent from 2012. By commodity purchased, Coos County saw $77.7 million spent on food service; $61.5 million on accommodations; and $40.6 million on arts, entertainment, and recreation. Other commodities made up the balance. Rates of direct travel spending were on a rising trajectory prior to the Great Recession; however, the economic downturn and associated decrease in discretionary spending resulted in a substantial drop in business revenue and employment. By 2009, direct travel spending had dropped from $232.3 million (2008) to $193.0 million. Since then the travel industry in Coos County has seen a steady resurgence.
Coos County’s Sole Proprietors
Although nearly 96 percent of the workforce is retained by businesses participating in the Unemployment Insurance program, the number of sole proprietors in Coos County makes a noticeable impact on the economy. In 2015 (the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau), the county’s nonemployers generated $153.5 million in sales receipts. Real estate, rental, and leasing activities ranked first, reporting $25.9 million; agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting reported $21.2 million; retail trade reported $18.8 million; and construction reported $18.4 million in sales receipts. The greatest number of sole proprietors were found in other services – a general industry group which includes such enterprises as grant making; civic, professional and similar organizations; repair and maintenance businesses; and personal and laundry services. Businesses in retail trade; education and health services (primarily health-related activities); real estate, rental, and leasing; and professional and business services were leading arenas for sole proprietors.
Coos County’s economy has weathered a number of economic downturns over the last 40 years. The core industries continue to show resilience. The strong education and health services sector, a combination of private and public sector entities, provides employment to a substantial number of county residents. The tourism industry with its strong retail trade, and leisure and hospitality components, offers not only a variety of employment opportunities but serves to bring outside dollars into the area. Well-positioned to continue its pattern of development, Coos County has become an economic and cultural hub on Oregon’s south coast.