Federal Government Employment in Oregon

by Guy Tauer

November 7, 2018

Significant revenues flow across the continent from the federal government in Washington D.C. to Oregon. But it’s not a one-sided relationship. Funds from federal personal income and corporate business taxes are transferred from Oregon coffers to the U.S. Department of Treasury as well. Some of those federal dollars return in the form of wages and benefits paid to Oregon workers employed in federal government jobs.

One former Oregon federal government worker is my good friend Linda Mazzu. She is currently the park superintendent at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Linda has 36 years of federal natural resources experience and worked in a number of federal government positions in different states, including Oregon. In many federal government agencies job changes, lateral transfers, or promotions may require moving to different states or even different regions of the country.

The National Park Service (NPS) press release announcing her appointment highlighted the many skills that she brought to her new role. “Linda’s experience building teamwork and enhancing communication within her staff and across divisions, as well as a proven track record developing partnerships and collaborating with local communities and other agencies will serve her well in this new role.”

Mazzu began her career at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as a biological technician. Afterward, she served as an outdoor recreation planner for the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance program in Washington, D.C. She then moved to Grand Canyon National Park to serve as a branch chief for Natural Resources, overseeing air quality and aircraft overflight management. Linda also worked for the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service in Oregon as a botanist and plant ecologist, and at the National Interagency Fire Center as a fire planning and compliance specialist. In 2008, she returned to the NPS as the Yellowstone National Park environmental compliance coordinator where she led the development of new natural and cultural resources compliance processes. What an interesting and varied career, and what places to call your workplace!

Federal Government Job Trends

In 2017, there were about 28,200 federal government jobs in Oregon, accounting for 1.5 percent of payroll employment. The annual average wage for federal government jobs was $74,982 last year. According to estimates from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, 54.7 percent of Oregon federal government workers were male and 45.3 percent were female. Male median earnings were $68,485 and the median was $51,207 for females. Average female earnings were 75 percent of male earnings, about the same percent difference as for all workers in Oregon. As average federal government wages were above the all-industry average, federal government comprised 2.1 percent of total Oregon payroll.

Multnomah County is home to 12,375 federal government jobs, or 43 percent of the state total. Multnomah County had the second-highest average federal government pay, at $83,284. Only Wasco County had higher average federal government pay, reaching $84,183. There were fewer than 300 federal government jobs in Wasco County, many at the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration offices located there. Other counties with a significant number of federal government jobs included Lane (1,766), Jackson (1,746), Douglas (1,444), Marion (1,253), and Clackamas (1,042).

A number of counties have a much larger than average share of total employment in federal government jobs compared with the statewide average of 1.5 percent. Those with about 10 percent or more of their total payroll employment in federal government jobs included Sherman (16.5%), Grant (11.4%), Lake (10.8%), and Harney County (9.6%). In these smaller counties, government employment totals ranged from just more than 100 jobs to just less than 300 jobs in 2017. All of these counties that have a higher share of jobs in federal government have in common a sizable presence of U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management jobs, presumably due to the abundance of federal land in those areas, and a dearth of economic activity in other sectors.  
Federal government payroll employment hit a non-decennial census peak in 2003 with 30,659. Job totals fell through 2007 and rose again to reach about 30,500 in 2010. The spike in 2010 was a result of temporary hiring to conduct the decennial Census of the population. After shedding those Census jobs in 2011, federal government employment continued to decline to reach a low point in 2014 when there were about 27,400 jobs. Employment rebounded slightly to reach an annual average of 28,200 in 2017. Our long-term employment forecast predicts federal government employment will decline by 300 jobs between 2017 and 2027, or a 1 percent drop. This is mostly due to an expected loss of 400 (-6.0%) federal postal service jobs during that time.

Employment Change by Industry

Federal government employment is broken out by industry category, just as private-sector industries are. Detailed employment trends shed light on some sectors within federal government that are adding jobs, while the overall trend has been a decline since 2001. Both administration of economic programs and hospitals gained about 800 jobs between 2001 and 2017. Administration of human resources and professional and technical services combined for a total gain of more than 500 jobs since 2001. Nursing and residential care facilities and justice, pubic order,and safety both added about 200 new jobs.
More than offsetting those increases were losses in postal services (-2,254), forestry and logging (-1,534), and administration of environmental programs (-594). We also expect the postal service will continue to shed jobs by 2027, which is reflected in our long-term projections (-400).

Largest Federal Government Employers in Oregon

Unlike private-sector businesses, information at the establishment level for federal government is not confidential and can be published. The Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center is the largest federal government employer in Oregon, with nearly 3,000 jobs. Veterans Administration medical centers have several hundred jobs in Roseburg (Douglas County) and in White City (Jackson County). Federal government employment by establishment and county are available upon request.
Occupational Employment

Many jobs in federal government are also found in Oregon’s private-sector businesses. There are a wide range of diverse occupations found in federal government establishments. Here is a list of the most common, based on the occupational employment statistics survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Federal government jobs may not account for a huge share of employment in Oregon, but their 1.5 percent share of jobs include a variety of different roles managing public lands and supporting the welfare and health of Oregonians, among myriad other duties. Employment in federal government jobs in Oregon is expected to continue its slow decline, but the services provided by federal government workers are felt by all of us. Well, I’d better plan on a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park again soon. My tour guide is the best out there.

 


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