Manufacturing Employment in Eastern Oregon

Manufacturing Employment in Eastern Oregon

by Tony Wendel

May 10, 2016

The manufacturing industry is responsible for about 12 percent of employment in the Eastern Oregon area (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties). Over the past 15 years, manufacturing jobs in the area grew from 2001 to 2004, declined from 2004 to 2009, and then grew again from 2009 to 2015, but failed to return to the 2001 employment level let alone the 2004 peak. Overall, manufacturing jobs in the area dropped about 6 percent, falling from 8,740 jobs in 2001 to 8,190 jobs in 2015.

If we exclude Morrow County where significantly atypical growth in manufacturing has occurred, the picture is even worse for the rest of the area. In the remaining seven counties, the pattern is the same as above, but the overall decline in manufacturing jobs is about 19 percent over the same period.

Here is a brief look at manufacturing in the individual counties over the same period:

Baker County's manufacturing employment had a period of growth in the mid-2000s but overall declined by an estimated 90 jobs, or 15 percent, from 2001 to 2015.

Grant County had fairly stable manufacturing employment from 2001 until 2007 before suffering a big drop during the recession. There has been slight growth since the recession, but the county is down an estimated 100 manufacturing jobs, or 43 percent, since 2001.

Harney County went from an estimated 240 manufacturing jobs in 2001 to almost non-existent manufacturing since 2009 with the loss of its two biggest manufacturers.

Malheur County's manufacturing employment has been in pretty steady decline since 2001, dropping an estimated 540 jobs, or 39 percent.

Morrow County is the area's huge bright spot, adding an estimated 990 jobs (up 122%) since 2001. Food manufacturing has been the major driver, up an estimated 820 jobs (104%) over the same period.

Umatilla County saw the largest drop in the number of manufacturing jobs in the area, losing an estimated 620 since 2001. However, since the county has the highest number of manufacturing jobs, the decline of 16 percent was smaller than that suffered by other Eastern Oregon counties.

Union County climbed, leveled, dropped during the recession, and then climbed again to wind up as the only other county in the Eastern Oregon area to see an increase in manufacturing employment over the 15-year period, adding an estimated 80 jobs (up 6%).

Wallowa County's manufacturing employment has seen small fluctuations up and down with the exception of a larger drop during the recession followed by a smaller bounce back. Overall, the county lost an estimated 40 manufacturing jobs (down 21%) over the past 15 years.