Fourth Quarter 2016: Mixed Job Indicators

by Erik Knoder

July 17, 2017

Employment in Oregon continued to grow in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with the previous year. Employers added nearly 48,000 jobs over the year according to the wage records they submitted. Median hourly wage also increased over the year, increasing $0.61 per hour to $18.84. Given these two indicators of a strong labor market, it may be natural to assume that people also worked more hours during the fourth quarter of 2016, but that is not the case.

The median number of hours worked was lower in every major industry in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared with the previous year. The decreases range from 8 percent in manufacturing to just 1 percent in natural resources and mining.
Other measures of hours worked are mixed. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics collects a survey of national private-sector employment. The results of this survey showed a drop in the average weekly hours worked by all employees in 2016 at the national level, but an increase in hours worked in Oregon. The Oregon data did show a slight dip in weekly hours at the end of 2016, followed by more gains in 2017.

The decrease in hours worked shown by wage records was accompanied by a drop of about 7,600 (-3.5%) in the number of people in Oregon holding multiple jobs in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Different measures of the economy occasionally produce mixed indicators of performance. Although hours worked and multiple job holding seems to have dipped in late 2016, the overall picture still seems to be one of increasing job growth and availability of work. Oregon is in its seventh year of employment growth, and has unusually low unemployment. It may be inevitable that employment growth slows as the economic expansion continues and the drop in hours in the fourth quarter of 2016 may simply be an indicator of normal variations in the labor market.


The source data for the quarterly wage file reports are derived from unemployment insurance (UI) wage reports that are submitted every quarter by all firms with employees covered by UI in Oregon. The wage records that are generated from these reports contain the Social Security number, quarterly total wages, and hours worked for every employee in a UI-covered firm. They also include the firm’s identification number, its industry and ownership code (i.e., private or local, state, or federal government), and the county in which the firm’s headquarters are located. These quarterly records cover nearly two million individuals employed in the state but don’t include roughly 280,000 self-employed workers. In the wage records, a job represents a single individual’s employment with a firm. If the number of jobs changes, it may be due primarily to a change in the number of positions that firms have, but it may also indicate an change in the number and frequency of individuals switching jobs.

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