Information Lifts Wasco County’s Payroll Despite 2020 COVID-19 Losses

by Dallas Fridley

November 24, 2021

Wasco County’s total all ownerships payroll grew by $23.5 million in 2020 to total $511 million, an increase of 4.8%. Wasco’s payroll growth ranked 11th among Oregon’s 36 counties, while five Oregon counties, including Clatsop, Hood River, Lincoln, Linn, and Wheeler, suffered a payroll loss in 2020. Oregon’s payroll rose by 2.4% or $2.6 billion to $110.1 billion.
One big caveat for 2020 was the Paycheck Protection Program, which distributed more than $46 million in loan assistance to eligible Wasco County businesses. A total of 653 loans were approved with 295 loans or about $28 million forgiven to date according to the SBA. To be eligible for forgiveness, at least 60% of the total borrowed or close to $17 million had to be spent on payroll costs. These payroll costs could be incurred in 2020 or 2021 or both years depending on the period covered by the loan. The window for forgiveness is open for 10 months following the last day of the covered loan period, with Wasco County’s total loan forgiveness likely to rise above $28 million.

On the employment side, 33 of 36 Oregon counties suffered a 2020 job loss. Total all ownerships (private and government) employment in Wasco County fell by 585 jobs or 5% in 2020, compared with Oregon’s 6% loss. Wages did rise considerably in 2020, with Wasco County’s average reaching $45,698, an increase of $4,271 or 10.3% over 2019. The mix of jobs changed substantially in 2020 with heavy losses in industries with below average pay, in particular leisure and hospitality and other services.

Oregon’s all industries average wage reached $59,925 in 2020, about $14,200 higher than Wasco County’s. Among Oregon’s 36 counties, Wasco County’s average wage ranked in the middle of the pack, in 15th position, just behind Yamhill County ($46,977) and just ahead of Umatilla County ($45,027). The annual wage gap for 26 of Oregon’s 36 counties exceeded $10,000 in 2020. Only three counties, Morrow ($60,567), Multnomah ($68,054), and Washington ($79,899) exceeded Oregon’s 2020 average wage. Multnomah County boasted Oregon’s largest payroll in 2020, with $32.5 billion or 29.5% of Oregon’s total payroll. Washington County’s 2020 payroll, at $22.8 billion, ranked second. Together the two counties held just over half of Oregon’s $110.1 billion payroll while hosting nearly 42% of its jobs. Excluding Multnomah and Washington, average pay for Oregon’s remaining 34 counties falls to $50,985, a drop of about $8,940 or about 15%.

Wasco County’s private industry payroll rose by $22.8 million in 2020 to total $405.7 million, an increase of 5.9%. Private industry employment fell to 9,403 jobs, a loss of 501 or 5.1%.

Information led Wasco County in 2020 with a payroll gain of $19.9 million or 77.4%, rising to $45.7 million. Without information’s 2020 payroll infusion, private industry’s $22.8 million gain would never have materialized. Information paid an average $196,194 in 2020, an increase of about $53,000 or 37% over 2019. Employment in information rose by 29.4% or 53 jobs in 2020 to average 233.

Retail trade produced a payroll gain of 5.0% in 2020, rising by $2.6 million to total $54.2 million. Employment fell by 42 jobs or 2.5% to average 1,641. Wages in retail trade averaged $33,033 in 2020, trailing Wasco County’s all industries average by nearly $12,700.

Manufacturing experienced a payroll increase of $2.5 million or a robust 9.6%, rising to $28.7 million in 2020. Employment in manufacturing fell by 5.3% or 32 jobs to average 571. Manufacturing’s average wage rose by $6,833 or 15.7% to $50,234. Manufacturing wages exceeded Wasco County’s all industries average by about $4,500.

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities increased its 2020 payroll by $1.6 million or 13.6% to total $13.7 million. Employment rose by 20 jobs or 9.3% to 236 and annual wages reached $58,114, more than $12,400 above the county’s 2020 average.

Education and health services boasted Wasco County’s largest private industry payroll in 2020, at $116.6 million. Payrolls in education and health services rose by just $1.5 million or 1.3% in 2020. Employment rose to 2,383 jobs, an increase of 40 or 1.7%. Wages in education and health services, at $48,931, actually fell by $192 or 0.4% in 2020 but still exceeded the county’s average by about $3,200. It should be noted that a fairly significant industry code change in 2020 shifted about 130 jobs from other services and into health care and social assistance; see the note below on industry code changes for additional detail.

Payroll losses in other services cut its 2020 total to $9.8 million, a loss of $3.3 million or 24.8%. An industry code change in 2020 shifted about 130 jobs from other services to education and health services while the industry’s payroll and employment losses also reflect COVID-19 impacts. Wages in other services rose to $30,210 in 2020, an increase of $4,415.

Leisure and hospitality cut its payroll by $3.0 million or 11.3% in 2020, falling to $23.8 million. Leisure and hospitality’s annual wage rose by $1,459 to average $21,587, about $24,100 below Wasco County’s average pay. Leisure and hospitality’s 2020 payroll ranked below professional and business services ($27.1 million) but exceeded construction ($17.8 million). Employment fell to 1,103 in 2020, a loss of about 230 jobs or 17.3%.

Professional and business services cut its payrolls by 10% or about $3.0 million in 2020, falling to $27.1 million. Employment in professional and business services fell by 93 jobs or 16.3% to average 478. Professional and business services paid an average $56,736 in 2020, about $11,000 above Wasco County’s average pay.

Government payrolls rose by just 0.7% to total $105.3 million in 2020. Government cut 84 jobs in 2020 to average 1,779. State government idled 12 jobs and its payrolls slumped by 2% to $15.1 million. State government pay averaged $62,782, nearly $17,100 above Wasco County’s average. Federal government payrolls rose by $0.2 million or 0.8% to total $25.2 million, while its employment fell to 282, a loss of six jobs. Federal government pay exceeded Wasco County’s all industries average by $43,753, paying an average $89,451. Local government payrolls rose by nearly $0.9 million, to total $64.9 million in 2020, up 1.4%. Local government employment fell by 65 jobs to average 1,257, while its pay averaged $51,653, an increase of $3,207 or 6.6%.

Note: A review of NAICS coding found that certain business units in 814110 (Private Households), which is part of the other services industry group, more closely aligned with industry code 624120 (Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities). This change impacted approximately 10,600 jobs in other services. The move was essentially limited to Home Care Workers and Personal Support Workers hired by public or private health care providers to assist in the daily care of elderly or disabled individuals. They typically live in the individual's home providing day-to-day care. Job duties may include housekeeping, food preparation, and shopping.

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