First Quarter 2018: Strong Economic Growth Continues

by Anna Johnson

October 18, 2018

Over the past couple of years, Oregon has been experiencing a very strong economy. In September 2018, the statewide unemployment rate was 3.8 percent for the second month in a row. These were Oregon’s lowest unemployment rates since comparable records began in 1976. The state’s nonfarm payroll employment has been increasing fairly steadily over the past year.

The newly released unemployment insurance wage records from the first quarter of 2018 also show evidence of a strong economy in Oregon. The total number of individuals working increased 2.4 percent over the 12 months prior to the first quarter of 2018. Total payroll increased too, growing 7.0 percent over the past year. Mean wages increased 4.5 percent over the year to $12,861 per quarter.

Other less frequently used economic measures add to the narrative. In the first quarter of 2018, Oregon added 126,488 workers to the workforce that had not worked in the fourth quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 12.0 percent over the previous 12 months. Of those who were working in the first quarter of 2018 but hadn’t been working the previous quarter, 36,356 had not worked in Oregon since 1990, an increase of 2.5 percent over the past year. This indicates that Oregon is adding new workers to the workforce.

With low unemployment and continued job growth, wage growth is typically expected as well. Oregon is seeing wage growth. Average wages increased over the past 12 months, as have median wages, with an increase of 4.6 percent. The median hourly wage for all workers in the first quarter of 2018 was $19.95.

Wages increased at all wages levels. The lowest paid one-fifth of workers saw their median wages increase 8.1 percent in the past 12 months. The second-lowest fifth of workers saw their median wages increase 7.2 percent, the third-lowest fifth saw a 4.7 percent increase, while the second-highest and highest paid fifths of workers had an increase in their wages over the past year of 3.5 and 3.4 percent, respectively.

From an industry perspective, manufacturing, wholesale trade, information, and financial activities have the largest shares of jobs paying $60 or more per hour. The leisure and hospitality industry had the lowest median wage of any industry in the first quarter of 2018, at $13.05. The information industry had the highest median wage, $33.55, and was the only industry in that quarter to have a median wage over $30 per hour. Large employers, those with 500 or more employees, had the highest median wages of any employer size class, at $23.50 per hour.


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