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

by Pat O'Connor

August 4, 2016

Linn and Benton counties will combine to add 6,660 jobs between 2014 and 2024, according to new projections from the Oregon Employment Department. This represents an 8 percent increase in employment over 10 years. The anticipated growth stems from private-sector gains of 5,330 jobs (9%) and growth of 910 jobs (4%) in government. This projected 8 percent growth rate well exceeds the 5 percent growth seen over the previous decade.
Beyond gains from economic growth, an additional 20,300 job openings will be created by 2024 as workers change occupations or leave for other reasons, such as retirement.

The 2014 to 2024 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 recovery from the Great Recession, particularly for the business services and trade sectors; and continuing baby boomer retirements.

Industry Projections

There will be job opportunities in all 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 (+1,720). This is followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+970 jobs). This industry contains retailers and wholesale trade, as well as distribution centers in the area. Only information is expected to lose jobs (-50) by 2024. Information includes newspaper, directory, and book publishers, as well as software publishing. 

The construction industry will continue its recovery from massive recession job losses and is projected to grow 15 percent and add 490 jobs by 2024. Construction's 15 percent growth is the second fastest rate of any industry, second only to private educational and health services. Even with its relatively fast growth rate, however, the construction industry's employment will not return to the level seen prior to the Great Recession. Other industries expected to fall short of pre-recession employment levels by 2024 include federal and local government, information, financial activities, and manufacturing.

Manufacturing and information will be the region's slowest-growing industries at 1 percent and negative 5 percent, respectively. Manufacturing is expected to add 100 jobs, while information is expected to shed 50 jobs.
Occupational Projections

Between 2014 and 2024, there will be job openings in most occupations. In addition to the more than 7,400 occupational openings from new or expanding businesses, Linn-Benton employers will also need sufficiently trained workers for the 20,300 openings due to the need to replace those 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 more than 6,100 openings from 2014 to 2024. 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 sales and related occupations, office and administrative occupations, and professional 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 and construction occupations are the two groups growing fastest, driven in large part by the aging population and recession-recovery trends. The top five fastest-growing specific occupations with more than 50 openings are physical therapists, home health aides, millwrights, industrial machinery mechanics, and conservation scientists.

In terms of actual job counts though, retail salespersons, counter attendants, cashiers, food preparation and serving workers, and waiters and waitresses 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 (53 percent) 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 28 percent of the openings at the competitive level in Linn and Benton counties.

Other Regional Projections

Central Oregon and the Portland Metro area will record the fastest employment growth over the 10-year period, according to projections made by the Oregon Employment Department's regional economists. The Portland tri-county area consisting of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties anticipates 15 percent employment growth by 2024. The Central Oregon region made up of Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties expects employment gains of 16 percent. Harney and Malheur counties are expected to grow the slowest in the state, growing 3 percent by 2024.

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