Eastern Oregon’s Minimum Wage – July 1, 2020

by Christopher Rich

September 8, 2020

Wage estimates from third quarter 2019 reveal that 7.9 percent of all jobs in Eastern Oregon (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa) paid the minimum wage while 42.0 percent of jobs in the region paid less than $15.00 per hour. In comparison, 6.6 percent of jobs statewide paid the minimum wage while 28.0 percent paid less than $15.00 per hour.

Set at $11.00 per hour for nonurban counties in 2019, the minimum wage stepped up to $11.50 per hour on July 1, 2020. Minimum wage is set to increase by $0.50 each July until 2022 when it reaches $12.50. Other parts of the state will see a steeper increase. Urban counties will set the minimum hourly rate at $13.50 in 2022 while the Portland Metro area will reach $14.75. Starting in 2023, minimum wage will be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Wage Hike Felt Most in Baker, Malheur, and Harney

For the region as a whole, Umatilla County supplied the largest share of minimum wage jobs. With 2,364 jobs, Umatilla accounted for 33.4 percent of all minimum wage jobs in the region. This isn’t surprising given that Umatilla accounted for a hefty portion (43.9%) of the region’s total number of jobs. In terms of proportions however, Umatilla accounted for fewer minimum wage jobs than might be expected. Malheur County on the other hand accounted for more than might be expected. Malheur accounted for 24.8 percent of all minimum wage jobs in the region while supplying just 17.2 percent of the region’s total number of jobs. Baker County also supplied an outsized portion with 11.4 percent of Eastern Oregon’s minimum wage jobs and 7.2 percent of the region’s total jobs.

Individually among the region’s eight counties, Morrow had the smallest share of minimum wage jobs compared with total jobs in the county. Just 4 percent of all jobs in Morrow County paid minimum wage. Baker County saw a substantial increase over the previous year and had the largest share of minimum wage jobs compared with total jobs in the county. In 2018, the county had 545 minimum wage jobs, accounting for 8.9 percent of total jobs. In 2019, the county had 809 minimum wage jobs, accounting for 12.6 percent of total jobs. Harney and Malheur counties were virtually tied for share of minimum wage jobs at 11.5 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively. Malheur had the largest share of jobs paying less than $15.00 per hour (47.9%); Morrow had the smallest share (33.8%).

Wage Hike Felt Mainly in Three Sectors

Almost two-thirds of Eastern Oregon jobs that paid minimum wage and more than half of those that paid less than $15.00 per hour were found in three broad sectors (out of 15): natural resources and mining; retail trade; and leisure and hospitality. Seasonal hiring patterns, education levels, and required skillsets heavily influence low-end wages in these sectors. Seasonal spending drives labor demand in leisure and hospitality as well as retail trade. Seasonal harvesting drives Eastern Oregon’s labor demand in natural resources and mining due to the sector’s significant agriculture component. Many seasonal jobs – such as retail salespersons; food and beverage servers; and farmworkers and laborers for crops – call for workers to perform repetitive tasks. Education and skill requirements for these positions are often low, which can lead to a large supply of qualified applicants and low wages.
Roughly one-third of all jobs that paid minimum wage in Eastern Oregon were in leisure and hospitality. For the region’s leisure and hospitality sector, 26.2 percent of jobs paid minimum wage while 75.8 percent paid less than $15.00 per hour. Statewide, 18.2 percent of leisure and hospitality jobs paid minimum wage while 55.4 percent paid less than $15.00. Food services and drinking places supplied more than three-fourths of all leisure and hospitality jobs in Eastern Oregon in third quarter 2019. The expectation of tips likely boosts total expected compensation for many positions, at the same time putting downward pressure on employer paid wages.

At 15.9 percent, retail trade accounted for half as many minimum wage jobs in Eastern Oregon when compared with leisure and hospitality. The industry also had a slightly larger share of jobs in higher-wage categories. This is likely due to the absence of tips as expected compensation and possibly a greater availability of low and mid-level management jobs that help boost employer paid wages. For the retail trade sector, 11.6 percent of jobs paid minimum wage while 61.8 percent of jobs paid less than $15.00 per hour. Statewide, 12.3 percent of retail trade jobs paid minimum wage while 51.5 percent paid less than $15.00 per hour.  

Natural resources and mining accounted for 15 percent of Eastern Oregon’s minimum wage jobs in 2019. Minimum wage jobs accounted for 7.5 percent of jobs in the sector while 62.5 percent paid less than $15.00 per hour. Statewide, 6.3 percent of natural resources and mining jobs paid minimum wage while 42.9 percent paid less than $15.00 per hour. Natural resources and mining is the largest of the 15 broad sectors in Eastern Oregon with 86.6 percent of the industry’s employment in Umatilla, Morrow, and Malheur counties. The bulk of minimum wage jobs in the sector were in two of these counties. Malheur County accounted for 49.2 percent of the sector’s minimum wage jobs while Umatilla County accounted for 32.1 percent.
Wage Increase Came During COVID-19

An estimated 7.9 percent of Eastern Oregon jobs should have seen a pay increase due to the minimum wage hike, during normal economic times. Two-thirds of these jobs are in three broad sectors, with the largest portion in leisure and hospitality. COVID-19 closures, however, greatly impacted the leisure and hospitality sector, and retail trade as well to a lesser extent. Leisure and hospitality had not yet regained previous employment levels as of July 2020, and the industry was far below its summertime seasonal peak when the increase in minimum wage took effect. I hope to explore the impact of COVID-19 on leisure and hospitality in the near future.

Each year the Oregon Employment Department produces a series of wage tables for Oregon’s 36 counties. These tables detail the number of jobs by wage category for 13 broad private sectors as well as state and local government. Although these county level tables are not published on Qualityinfo.org, they are available upon request. If you would like one on your county, please contact me at Christopher.M.Rich@Oregon.gov.


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