Keeping Oregonians Moving: The Automotive Repair and Maintenance Industry

by Sarah Cunningham

December 20, 2018

About 3.1 million Oregonians held a driver’s license in Oregon in 2018 and the state had more than 4.1 million registered vehicles. That doesn’t include vehicles registered elsewhere that travel into the state. That’s a lot of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motor homes on the road with the potential to break down and need some kind of servicing or require regularly scheduled preventative maintenance.

In 2017, 2,176 private-sector establishments and 18 local government establishments in Oregon were classified within the automotive repair and maintenance industry. This industry employs automotive service technicians and mechanics; cleaners of vehicles and equipment; automotive body and related repairers; secretaries and administrative assistants; and salespersons to name a few. This industry includes car washes, automotive glass repair shops, oil change and lubrication shops, transmission repair, and exhaust repair, among other related automotive repair businesses.

Employment Remains Lower than the Pre-Recession Peak

Automotive repair and maintenance was one of many industries that were unable to escape the recession from 2007 to 2009. From peak employment in 2007 to 2017, this industry lost 2.5 percent of jobs in the private sector, while total payroll employment in Oregon’s private sector saw a job gain of 9.6 percent. In 2007, the industry employed about 12,800 workers. By 2017, employment stood at about 12,400 workers. The industry experienced a post-recession low in 2010 with 10,800 jobs. Since then, employment has increased 14.9 percent.
The automotive repair and maintenance industry has not kept pace with job growth in the general economy since 2001. Prior to the recession, employment in Oregon’s private sector grew about three times as fast as the automotive repair and maintanence industry. During the recession, the automotive repair and maintenance industry saw a larger employment decline (-12.6%) than Oregon’s private sector (-8.7%). During the post-recession recovery, the private sector grew faster than the industry, 21.1 percent compared with 14.9 percent.

Growth Projected Within the Repair and Maintenance Industry

The automotive repair and maintenance industry is a subcategory of the broader repair and maintenance industry. This broader industry includes other subcategories: electronic and precision equipment repair and maintenance; commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair and maintenance; and personal and household goods repair and maintenance. The automotive repair and maintenance industry had more than two-thirds of all employment within the broader industry in 2017.

Over the decade spanning from 2017 to 2027, the repair and maintenance industry is projected to increase employment by 1,600 jobs, or 9 percent. We can’t say for certain how much the automotive repair and maintenance is driving the projected job growth in the broader industry, but it is the best approximation we have based on the data available. This rate of industry expansion is lower than both the projected growth rate for total payroll employment (12%) and the projected growth rate for payroll employment in the private sector (13%). Should the actual growth of the industry over the decade be close to the projected growth rate, the industry will far surpass the peak level of employment achieved in 2007.

Lower than Average Industry Wages

The average wage for all employees in the private sector in Oregon was $50,485 in 2017; nationally, it was $55,338. The average wage for the private-sector automotive repair and maintenance industry in Oregon, at $40,041, was significantly lower than both Oregon and national average wages for all industries. Oregon’s automotive repair and maintenance industry wage was slightly higher than the national average wage of $38,700. The average wage of the industry is influenced by occupations that have low wages, such as cleaners of vehicles and equipment ($12.56 per hour in 2018) and service station attendants ($11.99 per hour), which have wages significantly lower than the median wage for all occupations ($19.09 per hour) in Oregon.  

With the number of vehicles in Oregon increasing over the last couple of years, demand for automotive repair and maintenance is growing throughout the state. The automotive repair and maintenance industry has fewer jobs than a decade ago and wages within the industry are lower than average wages for the broader economy, but employment is projected to grow over the next decade and likely to exceed the last decade’s peak level of employment.

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