Help Wanted in Eastern Oregon - 2017

by Christopher Rich

March 28, 2018

Results from the 2017 Eastern Oregon Job Vacancy Survey reveal increased demand for workers across Eastern Oregon. This regional job vacancy survey is an annual publication using data gathered throughout the year. We surveyed 1,200 private employers in Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties with two or more employees. View the summary below and then download the complete results from

Vacancies by Industry

Eastern Oregon had 2.6 times more job vacancies in 2017 than in 2016, which means employers needed to fill roughly 2,300 jobs at any given time during the year. This represents an increase of 158 percent over 2016 when employers reported roughly 900 vacancies at any given time.
The largest increase in vacancies came in health care and social assistance. Employers in this industry reported 488 more vacancies than they did the previous year. The total number of job vacancies for the industry was 783. Large increases were also notable in natural, resources, and mining; manufacturing; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; and wholesale trade. These four industries, along with health care and social assistance, accounted for 82 percent of the increase in job vacancies and 71 percent of total job vacancies in the region. Employers reported fewer job vacancies in only two industries. Financial activities saw an 82 percent decrease in vacancies and information saw a 29 percent decrease.
Vacancies by Occupation

Among the broad occupational groups, only management occupations recorded fewer vacancies in 2017. Occupational groups with the highest number of vacancies were also those with the largest increase in vacancies. These groups were health care practitioners and technical; transportation and material moving; farming, fishing, and forestry; and production.

Four occupations drove vacancies in the aforementioned groups. These occupations accounted for roughly one-third of all vacancies in 2017. The four top occupations were registered nurses (240 vacancies); farmworkers and laborers (231 vacancies); heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (155 vacancies); and laborers and freight, stock, and material movers (116 vacancies). Employers also reported these occupations as the most difficult to fill vacancies for the year.

Education, Experience, and Wages

A larger number of vacancies required no education beyond high school: 66 percent in 2017 compared with 59 percent in 2016. Along these lines, vacancies requiring a high school diploma slipped to 29 percent in 2017 compared with 35 percent in 2016, and vacancies with no requirement grew to 37 percent in 2017 compared with 24 percent in 2016. This shift likely reflects the increase of vacancies in occupations that typically have lower education requirements, rather than a reduction in education requirements by employers having difficulty filling vacancies.
The number of vacancies requiring previous experience remained relatively stable over the year: 53 percent required previous experience in 2017 compared with 55 percent in 2016. The share of vacancies requiring one to five years of experience decreased, however, while the share of vacancies requiring less than a year increased. Roughly 45 percent of vacancies in these two categories required one to five years of experience in 2017 compared with 60 percent in 2016. This is in line with the increased prevalence of farmworker, laborer, and material mover vacancies.
Wages offered to fill vacancies remained relatively stable over the year as well. In 2017, roughly six out of 10 vacancies paid less than $15 per hour (same as 2016). Vacancies paying $25 per hour or more rose slightly to reach 15 percent, while those paying between $15 and $25 ticked down to 12 percent from 13 percent in 2016.

Vacancies that required little experience in combination with a high school diploma or less were more prevalent in 2017. These vacancies offered an average wage of $14.69 per hour for high school and $11.15 for no education requirement. Vacancies that offered an average wage above $20 per hour were more likely to require a combination of higher education and greater previous experience. Vacancies requiring more education and experience were also more likely to be full-time permanent positions. Employers reported these vacancies as the most difficult to fill.

The 2017 Job Vacancy Survey contains many details not covered in this brief summary. So be sure to download a copy and check it out. As always, if you think of a question, don’t hesitate to contact me:

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