Marion County’s Fast Growing Hispanic Workforce

Marion County’s Fast Growing Hispanic Workforce

by Pat O'Connor

December 1, 2017

Over the past 25 years, Marion County’s Hispanic workforce has grown more than 200 percent; adding more than 18,000 workers from 1991 to 2016. Marion County’s total workforce expanded 48 percent from 1991 to 2016, adding 48,000 workers.

The agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector, which is dominated by agriculture in Marion County, employed the largest number of Hispanic workers both in 1991 and 2016. In 1991, nearly 3,800 Hispanic workers were employed in the sector. In 2016, more than 4,500 Hispanics were employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, growing 20 percent over that time. Although this industry employs the largest number of Hispanics in Marion County, it showed the slowest percentage growth of Hispanic employment of all the industries.

Health care and social assistance has been one of the fastest growing industries in Marion County over the past 25 years and it has added the largest number of Hispanic workers of any industry in the county. The sector only employed about 500 Hispanics in 1991. However, by 2016 the sector had more than 3,600 Hispanic employees; growing more than 600 percent.

Retail trade employed 2,500 more Hispanics in 2016 than in 1991, also showing more than 600 percent growth over that time.

The manufacturing sector in Marion County has some interesting trends. Overall, manufacturing employment is down about 1,000 jobs, or 8 percent, from 1991 to 2016. However, the number of Hispanic workers in the sector grew more than 2,400 over that time period; growing from around 1,500 in 1991 to nearly 4,000 in 2016. Marion County’s manufacturing sector added the second largest number of Hispanic workers of any sector over that time period, second only to health care and social assistance.

Monthly Earnings 

Across all industries in 2016 in Marion County, Hispanic workers earned an average of $2,673 a month, roughly 68 percent of the average monthly earnings compared with workers that were not Hispanic, which had average monthly earnings of $3,914. Over the past 25 years, that percentage has varied a bit. In 1992, Hispanic workers in Marion County had 70 percent of the average monthly earnings compared with workers that were not Hispanic. The highest percent was in 2004, when Hispanic workers earned nearly 72 percent and the low point was in 2013 when Hispanic workers earned 67 percent of the earnings of non-Hispanic workers in the county.

At an industry level, that percentage varies quite a bit. In accommodation and food services, Hispanic workers’ average monthly earnings of $1,461 in 2016 are 91 percent of the $1,614 in monthly earnings that non-Hispanic workers earned in that sector.

However, in health care and social assistance Hispanic workers had average monthly earnings of $2,927 in 2016, 64 percent of the $4,372 that non-Hispanic workers earned.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at the average earnings by industry is that we are not necessarily comparing workers in the same occupations. For example, if a larger share of Hispanic workers in Marion County’s health care sector worked in the industry’s lower paid occupations, such as CNA (certified nursing assistant) and had a smaller share of workers that were in higher paying occupations, such as RN (registered nurse), nurse practitioner, or physician, that difference in the occupational mix that Hispanic and non-Hispanic workers have can explain a significant amount of the differences in earnings.

Future Growth?

One thing not discussed so far in this article is that Marion County’s Hispanic population is significantly younger as a group than Marion County’s non-Hispanic population. The fast population growth of Marion County’s Hispanic residents in recent decades has helped the county be in a good position looking forward in terms of labor force growth. Our colleague Josh Lehner at Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis posted about Salem’s demographic advantages last year. In his post, Josh points out that Marion County’s labor force ranks seventh out of Oregon’s 36 counties in terms of its future labor force growth. That is an enviable ranking compared with some of Oregon’s more rural counties that are projected to see a declining population and labor force due to an aging population.