Long-Term Projections Show Broad-Based Job Opportunities in Linn and Benton Counties

by Pat O'Connor

November 12, 2020

Linn and Benton counties will combine to add 6,670 jobs between 2019 and 2029, according to new projections from the Oregon Employment Department. This represents a 7 percent increase in employment over 10 years. The anticipated growth stems from private-sector gains of 5,650 jobs (8%) and growth of 790 jobs (4%) in government. This projected 7 percent growth rate is slower than the near 18 percent growth seen over the past decade in Linn and Benton counties. One reason for the strong 18 percent growth is that 2009 was in the depths of the Great Recession, and 2019 was prior to our current recession, and marked the high point in the business cycle.

Beyond gains from economic growth, an additional 116,141 job openings will be created by 2029 as workers change occupations or leave for other reasons, such as retirement.

The 2019 to 2029 employment projections bring together several trends that have been building over the past few years: a strong health care sector, due in part to an aging population; continuing strong growth in Linn and Benton counties’ construction sector, which was hard hit during the Great Recession; and continuing baby boomer retirements.

Industry Projections

There will be job opportunities in most of the broad private-sector industry groups. The region’s private educational and health services sector – of which hospitals are a big part – is projected to add the most jobs (+2,570 jobs). This is followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+1,050 jobs). This industry includes retailers and wholesale trade, as well as distribution centers. Only information and manufacturing are expected to lose jobs (-40 and -30, respectively) by 2029. Information includes newspapers, directory, and book publishers, as well as software publishing. 
The construction industry will continue its recovery from large job losses during the Great Recession and is projected to grow 11 percent and add 500 jobs by 2029. Construction’s 11 percent growth is the second-fastest rate of any sector, second only to private educational and health services.

In the public sector, federal government employment is projected to shed 70 jobs from 2019 to 2029, declining 9 percent. State government is projected to be essentially flat, adding 10 jobs over the decade. Local government employment is projected to grow by 850 jobs over the decade, with 530 of them within local government education. Local government education includes local school districts (K-12) as well as Oregon State University, which moved from state government to local government in 2014.

Occupational Projections

Between 2019 and 2029, there will be job openings in most occupations. In addition to the nearly 6,700 occupational openings from new or expanding businesses, Linn-Benton employers will also need sufficiently trained workers for the more than 116,000 openings due to the need to replace those workers leaving their occupations. Replacement openings will make up a majority of total job openings in all major occupational groups in Linn and Benton counties.

Linn and Benton counties’ economic diversity is demonstrated by the occupational group projected to have the most job openings: service occupations are expected to have nearly 28,400 openings from 2019 to 2029. Service occupations – which include jobs as varied as emergency services, pest control workers, and fast food cooks – generally pay lower wages and require lower levels of education.
Other large occupational groups are professional and related occupations, office and administrative occupations, and sales and related occupations. Professional occupations, which include web developers, engineers, and lawyers, tend to pay higher wages and require higher levels of education.

Health care, construction, and service occupations are the three groups growing fastest, driven in large part by the aging population and recession-recovery trends. Seven of the top 10 fastest-growing specific occupations with more than 50 openings are in health care.
In terms of actual job counts though, food preparation and serving workers, cashiers, retail salespersons, personal care and service workers, and personal care aides are the five occupations with the most job openings anticipated in the coming 10 years. These are all large occupations, and they will all experience some openings due to economic growth and many more due to the retirement or other departure of existing workers.

About half (52%) of the projected job openings will require some sort of education beyond high school in order for candidates to be more competitive in the hiring process. A bachelor's degree or higher will be needed for about 25 percent of the openings at the competitive level in Linn and Benton counties.

Other Regional Projections

Central Oregon and the Portland tri-county area will record the fastest employment growth over the 10-year period, according to projections made by the Employment Department’s regional economists. The Portland tri-county area consisting of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties anticipates 11 percent employment growth by 2029. The Central Oregon region expects employment gains of 12 percent. Statewide, Oregon’s employment is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029.


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