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

by Erik Knoder

March 7, 2022

Northwest Oregon is expected to add 16,200 jobs between 2020 and 2030, according to new projections from the Oregon Employment Department for Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties. This represents a 16% increase in employment over 10 years. The anticipated growth stems from private-sector gains of 13,880 jobs (19% growth) and the addition of 1,890 jobs (8% growth) in government. The high growth rate is substantially due to the expected recovery of the jobs lost in 2020 from the pandemic recession.

Northwest Oregon had 102,590 jobs in 2020, down from 112,140 in 2019. This included an estimated 5,900 jobs from self-employment. The recovery of jobs lost and anticipated industry growth is expected to push the region’s job count to 118,790 in 2030. The first chart shows employment by major sector in 2020.
Government generated 24% of the jobs in Northwest Oregon in 2020. This share is helped considerably by the presence of Oregon State University, which contributed about 60% of the 21,490 local government jobs in the region. Other large industries in Northwest Oregon in 2020 were trade, transportation, and utilities with 14,570 jobs; private educational and health services with 13,850 jobs; and leisure and hospitality with 13,300 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, which often serves as a proxy for the important tourism trade in the region, lost nearly 4,000 jobs on an annual average basis due to the pandemic recession. In the past it has typically been the largest private-sector industry when measured by employment.

In addition to the nearly 16,200 jobs we expect from recovery and economic growth, another 117,631 job openings will be created by 2030 as workers change occupations or leave for other reasons, such as retirement. This total number is important when considering the capacity of job training and educational programs a region will need to offer in order to have a skilled workforce. Altogether, Northwest Oregon will need nearly 134,000 trained workers over the 10 years to accommodate the region’s growth and replacement of existing workers.

The 2020 to 2030 employment projections bring together several trends: expansion after the pandemic recession, especially in leisure and hospitality; an ever-growing health care sector, due in part to an aging population; ongoing business-services specialization; and continuing baby boomer retirements. Other trends point to slower growth or even declines: brick-and-mortar retail trade has shed jobs due to sales shifting online, local newspapers in the information industry have cut jobs as news and advertising moved online, forest products jobs continue to compete with increasing automation, and government jobs are constrained by funding. Perhaps the biggest unknown is what will be the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19. The Employment Department’s 2020-2030 employment projections are long-term projections intended to capture growth and structural change in the economy. As such, they assume some industries will experience moderate long-term impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, but not ongoing waves of COVID-19 itself.

Industry Projections

Growth is expected in all of the broad industry groups through 2030, except for the federal government. We expect essentially no change in federal government employment based on past trends.

The region’s leisure and hospitality sector – which consists of accommodation (lodging), food services, and entertainment firms – is projected to add the most jobs (+5,880) by far and to be the fastest growing sector (+44%). The sector also lost the most jobs during the pandemic recession, so most of the projected jobs are just for the industry to recover. These 10-year projections assume that customers will return and the industry will find a way to grow as it has historically.
Private educational and health services was also affected by the pandemic recession and lost some jobs. Schools and daycare centers shifted to online teaching and cut staff. Many medical providers were closed at least temporarily, and services were curtailed by others. Over the 10 years it is expected to continue its growth in the region, state, and nation. The industry is expected to add 2,530 jobs even though it is currently only the third-largest sector in the region. Demographic change, an influx of retirees, and medical advances drive growth in the industry.

Trade, transportation, and utilities was also hit hard by the pandemic, especially its retail trade portion. Online sales present a challenge for local retailers, but this also provides a boost for delivery services in the transportation part of the sector. The entire sector is expected to add 1,800 jobs over the 10 years.

Local government is the largest industry in Northwest Oregon, but it will be one of the region’s slower growing industries at only 8% over 10 years. An important recent change for counting the region’s employment is that Oregon State University’s employment changed to being counted in local government education in 2016 instead of state government.

Professional and business services is projected to add 1,580 jobs and to be one of the faster growing industries through 2030, growing by 22%. 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.

A few specific industries will probably lose employment. We expect a continued 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 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.

Occupational Projections

Between 2020 and 2030 there will be job openings in most occupations in Northwest Oregon. In addition to the 16,200 occupational openings from new or expanding businesses, Northwest Oregon employers will also need sufficiently trained workers for 117,600 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-dominated economy. Service occupations is usually the largest broad group of occupations, and this group is expected to have 41,514 total openings (growth plus replacement) from 2020 to 2030. In part this reflects growth of 33% over the 10 years, and in part it reflects high occupational turnover. 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, with 20,850 total openings; sales and related occupations, with 14,211 total openings; and office and administrative occupations, with 11,825 total openings. Because of the pandemic recession the professional and related occupations group was slightly larger than the service occupations in 2020, which is unusual, but this will change as the economic recovery continues and service occupations regain their numbers. 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 occupation in sales and related occupations is retail salesperson. It tends to be a fairly low-paying occupation and has a large occupational turnover.

Service (+33%), and health care (+18%) are the two fastest-growing major occupational groups. However, health care has relatively little occupational turnover (although that may be changing with the pandemic) so it is expected to have only 8,375 total openings. Two-thirds of the major occupational groups are expected to have double-digit growth over the 10 years.

The five specific occupations with the most total openings forecast over the next 10 years are fast food and counter workers; education, training, and library workers (mostly student workers at Oregon State University); cashiers; retail salespersons; and waiters and waitresses. These are all large occupations now, and they will all experience at least some openings due to economic growth and many more due to the retirement or other departure of existing workers. Office clerks and food preparation workers are expected to add the fewest positions due to just economic growth out of the top fifteen occupations.
The top five fastest-growing specific occupations with 100 or more openings are expected to be restaurant cooks (+65%), massage therapists (+48%), exercise trainers (+47%), fast food and counter workers (+46%), and nurse practitioners (+43%). Most of the occupations with many openings and faster growth don’t require a four-year college degree, but they often don’t pay well either. It is still true that most higher-paying occupations require at least some college, post-secondary training, or an apprenticeship. About two-thirds of the occupations will require some sort of education beyond high school in order for candidates to be really competitive in the hiring process.


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