Curry County and Recent Business TrendsJune 25, 2018 The overall industry mix of coastal Curry 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 five jobs. However, unique in Oregon, most of Curry 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, 38.3 percent of Curry County government jobs are dedicated to health care and another 27.5 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 Curry County’s economy – 18 percent of employment and the second largest payroll in the county ($36.9 million in 2017) after government. Retail trade accounts for nearly 85 percent of the jobs in this large sector; the modest payroll, $26.7 million, reflects the often seasonal and part-time nature of these jobs. Frequently associated with retail endeavors, leisure and hospitality jobs account for nearly 18 percent of employment. The total payroll of this seasonal sector is roughly $20.1 million, an average of $17,226 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, 18.5 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 began more than a decade ago, continue to regain lost ground and offer a variety of jobs across the area. Since 2012, manufacturing has gained an additional 19 percent employment and increased its payroll by nearly 11 percent. During the same time, construction – particularly in focus due to reported housing shortages – has added nearly 7 percent to its workforce and 19.5 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. Curry County’s 2017 minimum wage has been $10 per hour; this will increase to $10.50 on July 1, 2018. During 2017, 10 percent of the county’s jobs paid the minimum wage. Retail trade, and leisure and hospitality accounted for one out of three of minimum wage jobs (9.4% and 23.2%, respectively). Over 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 per hour (88.8% and 84.2%, respectively). Sectors offering opportunities at higher wage levels, e.g., greater than $62,000 per year, include transportation, warehousing, and utilities (45.9%); professional and business services (38.0%); local government (25.9%); and state government (22.5%).
Contributing to the financial well-being of area residents are the short commuting distances associated with employment. Roughly 52 percent of Curry County’s workforce lives within 10 miles of work, and 12 percent commute between 10 and 24 miles. For those employed in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, 41 percent live within 10 miles of work, and 6 percent commute 10 to 24 miles.
Tourism’s Contributions to Curry 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 Curry County was $132.6 million – an increase of 19.4 percent from 2010, according to Dean Runyan and Associates. By commodity purchased, Curry County saw $38.3 million spent on food services; $29.0 million on accommodations; and $16.6 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 2010, direct travel spending had dropped to $111.1 million from $116.1 million in 2008. Since then the travel industry in Curry County has seen a steady resurgence.
Curry County’s Sole Proprietors
Although nearly 96 percent of the workforce is retained by businesses participating in the Unemployment Insurance program, sole proprietors in Curry 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 $78.8 million in sales receipts. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting ranked first, reporting $16.9 million. Real estate, rental, and leasing activities reported $11.6 million; construction reported $10.7 million; and retail trade reported $6.1 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. Other services reported $7.8 million in sales receipts. Businesses in construction; professional and business services; real estate, rental, and leasing; retail trade; and health care and social assistance were leading arenas for sole proprietors.
Curry 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. Curry County is well positioned to continue its pattern of development on Oregon’s south coast.