Long-Term Projections Show Broad-Based Job Opportunities in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

July 10, 2018

Northwest Oregon is expected to add 7,990 jobs between 2017 and 2027, according to new projections from the Oregon Employment Department for Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties. This represents a 7 percent increase in employment over 10 years. The anticipated growth stems from private-sector gains of 6,380 jobs (8%) and the addition of 1,010 jobs (4%) in government.

Northwest Oregon had 108,980 jobs in 2017. This included an estimated 5,750 jobs from self-employment. Anticipated growth will push the region’s job count to 116,970 in 2027. Government comprised 24 percent of the jobs in Northwest Oregon. This share is helped considerably by the presence of Oregon State University, which contributes nearly half of the 25,630 government jobs in the region.

Other large industries in Northwest Oregon are leisure and hospitality with 16,090 jobs in 2017; trade, transportation, and utilities with 14,920 jobs; and private education and health services with 13,730 jobs. Leisure and hospitality often serves as a proxy for the important tourism trade in the region.

Beyond gains from economic growth, an additional 126,879 job openings will be created by 2027 as workers change occupations or leave for other reasons, such as retirement. This number is important when considering the capacity of job training programs a region will need to offer in order to have a skilled workforce. Altogether, Northwest Oregon will need nearly 135,000 trained workers over the next 10 years to accommodate the region’s growth and replacement of existing workers.

The 2017 to 2027 employment projections bring together several trends that have been building over the past few years: continuing expansion after the Great Recession, particularly for construction and food manufacturing; an ever-growing health care sector, due in part to an aging population; ongoing business-services specialization; and continuing baby boomer retirements.

Industry Projections

Growth is expected in all of the broad industry groups through 2027, but some specific industries will probably lose employment. We expect a small loss of jobs in the mining and logging industry and in wood product manufacturing due to ongoing improvements in labor-saving technology and mill modernization. This has been the trend for the past couple decades. This same process accounts for some expected job losses in paper manufacturing. Another risk (and its probability is unknown) for paper and wood product manufacturing is the closure of an entire mill. During the Great Recession Oregon lost several paper and wood product mills with little warning to the nearby communities.

The region’s leisure and hospitality sector – which consists of accommodation (lodging), food services, and entertainment firms – is projected to add the most jobs (1,680), followed by the private educational and health services sector (1,460).
Employment in leisure and hospitality has recovered from the recession in all of the Northwest counties and is growing well. Private educational and health services was little affected by the Great Recession and is expected to continue its growth in the region, state, and nation.

Professional and business services is projected to be the fastest-growing industry through 2027, adding 15 percent (1,180 jobs) to its 2017 employment. Much of the growth is driven by financial and operational specialization. Firms increasingly use holding companies and corporate offices that are distinct from their operations. They also rely more on contracting out ancillary services, such as cleaning and groundskeeping.

Northwest Oregon’s construction industry, continuing its recovery from massive recession job losses, is projected to grow fast (13% or 490 jobs). Construction employment has a history of significant and pro-cyclical fluctuations, so it is quite plausible that the region could enjoy a migration and housing boom and add more construction jobs than forecast, or suffer another recession and add fewer. Over the long run, however, construction tends to contribute about 4 to 5 percent of the region’s total nonfarm jobs.

Government will be the region’s slower-growing industries at 4 percent. Federal government is expected to shed a few jobs. State and local governments are limited by their funding. Two important changes for the region are that Oregon State University’s employment changed to being counted in local government education in 2016 instead of state government, and home care workers are now counted in the private educational and health services instead of state government.

Occupational Projections

Between 2017 and 2027, there will be job openings in most occupations. In addition to the 7,992 occupational openings from new or expanding businesses, Northwest Oregon employers will also need sufficiently trained workers for the 126,879 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 and usually far outnumber the openings due to growth.

These occupational projections make clear that Northwest Oregon has a service economy. Service occupations is the largest broad group of occupations, and this group is expected to have 40,848 total openings (growth plus replacement) from 2017 to 2027. This is growth of 10.9 percent over the 10 years. Service occupations – which include jobs as varied as emergency services, pest control workers, and fast food cooks – often pay lower wages and require lower levels of education.

Other large occupational groups are professional and related occupations, sales and related occupations, and office and administrative occupations. Professional and related occupations, which include web developers, engineers, and lawyers, tend to pay higher wages and require higher levels of education. The largest single sales occupation is retail salesperson. It tends to be a fairly low-paying occupation.

Construction and extraction (+11.6%); and health care (+10.9%) are two more major groups growing at fast rates. However, these two groups have only 5,131 and 6,248 total openings, respectively, making them two of the smaller occupational groups.

The five specific occupations with the most total openings forecast over the next 10 years are education, training, and library workers; retail salespersons; cashiers; waiters and waitresses; and combined food preparation and serving workers. These are all large occupations now, and they will all experience some openings due to economic growth and many more due to the retirement or other departure of existing workers.
The top five fastest-growing specific occupations with more than 100 openings should be couriers and messengers, separating machine operators, home health aides, agricultural managers, and market research analysts. Although these occupations are growing fast, they don’t account for most job openings.

About 50 percent of all job openings typically require education beyond high school as a minimum to enter the occupation. About two-thirds of the projected job openings will require some sort of education beyond high school in order for candidates to be really competitive in the hiring process. A bachelor's degree or higher will be needed for about 40 percent of the openings at the competitive level.

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