Covered Employment and Wages in the Salem MSA (Marion and Polk Counties): 2016

by Pat O'Connor

July 18, 2017

Covered employment or quarterly census of employment and wages (QCEW) data is obtained through employers’ payroll tax records. The universe for QCEW includes businesses whose employees are covered by unemployment insurance. QCEW provides more detailed industry employment and payroll data than the current employment statistics (CES) estimates.

In 2016, total covered employment for the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which is comprised of Marion and Polk counties, was nearly 169,000; up nearly 4,800 jobs from 164,157 in 2015. The annual average wage in the Salem MSA was $42,033 in 2016, less than the statewide average of $49,453.
Marion County’s average annual wage in 2016 was $42,942 which ranked 8th highest among Oregon’s 36 counties. Polk County’s average annual wage in 2016 was $35,247; ranking 29th among Oregon’s counties. The Salem MSA’s average annual wage has consistently been less than the statewide average over the past 40 years. However, the gap has increased over the years. In 1976, Oregon’s average wage was about 7 percent higher than the Salem MSA’s average. By 2000, the statewide average wage was 18 percent higher than in the Salem MSA. Following the “dot com” bubble burst the wage gap between the mid-valley and the state narrowed slightly. However, that gap grew worse beginning in 2010. In 2016, the statewide average wage was 18 percent higher than the Salem MSA’s average.

Employment Gains and Losses in 2016

The QCEW series provides us with the changes in employment and also allows us to see if those employment gains and losses are occurring in industries with high or low average wages. 

The Salem MSA gained nearly 4,800 jobs from 2015 to 2016; gains of nearly 3,900 in the private sector accounted for the majority of the growth, while the public sector grew slightly slower, adding nearly 900 jobs. Employment gains and losses varied significantly by industry.

Private education and health services (+1,067 jobs) and trade, transportation and utilities (+731) added the most jobs during 2016. In the Salem MSA, information showed the fastest industry employment growth, growing 13 percent in 2016 and adding over 130 jobs. Construction added nearly 700 jobs to grow 8.0 percent; outpacing the overall private-sector growth in the area.
Manufacturing showed modest employment growth in 2016, adding nearly 300 jobs and growing 2.1 percent during the year.

Professional and business services added more than 600 jobs in 2016 to grow 4.7 percent and outpace the overall private sector in the area.

Other services grew faster than 7 percent in 2016, adding nearly 500 jobs in the Salem area.  

Natural resources and mining was the only major sector to show an employment decline in 2016, shedding more than 500 jobs or 4.3 percent. Natural resources and mining employment in the Salem area is dominated by agriculture, in particular crop production, and logging as well.   
The public sector as a whole showed 2.2 percent employment growth from 2015 to 2016, adding nearly 900 jobs.

For more detailed industry employment and payroll data go to , under “Economic Data” select “Employment and Wages by Industry”. Covered employment and payroll data is available for Oregon’s counties from 2001 to the present.

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