Northwest Oregon’s Construction Sector Resilient

by Shawna Sykes

February 24, 2021

Construction industry jobs in Northwest Oregon have grown steadily since dipping by 3.6% (113 jobs) during the Great Recession. The growth rate was 48% from 2012 to 2019 adding approximately 1,450 jobs in the time period. Average construction sector employment for the five-county region in 2019 was 4,472 and total payroll was nearly $233 million.
As of the conclusion of the third quarter of 2020, Northwest Oregon’s construction employment was at about 97% of 2019 annual levels, a positive sign, given the COVID-19 economic downturn.

Benton County has the largest number of construction industry jobs within the area with an average annual employment of 1,357 in 2019. Clatsop County is second highest with 1,157 followed by Lincoln (841), Columbia (675), and Tillamook (451).

Of the five Northwest Oregon counties, Columbia has the highest number of construction industry workers with an estimated 1,854, according to 2018 Census data. Keep in mind that a count of construction industry workers includes all employment within the sector, from bookkeepers and administrative staff to skilled trades workers like carpenters, electricians, cement masons, etc. If you work for a construction sector firm, you are counted in that industry’s employment totals.
Initial unemployment claims showed that 1,203 of the county’s construction industry workers filed for regular unemployment claims in 2020, nearly two-thirds of the sector’s workforce within the county. Regular unemployment claims do not include claims for pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA), contractors, or gig workers. Filing an initial unemployment claim also does not mean that the individual received benefits. They may have filed, then gone back to work quickly at another job, been disqualified for benefits, or otherwise did not receive benefits.

Construction industry workers in other Northwest Oregon counties seemed to be less impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn than those in Columbia County. About 41% of Clatsop, 40% of Lincoln, 29% of Benton, and 27% of Tillamook County construction industry workers filed unemployment claims in 2020.

Given the severity of COVID-19 on the economy in 2020, construction industry employment in Northwest Oregon has been markedly resilient. Though we don’t have a breakout for construction sector employment for Benton County, Clatsop County preliminary estimates show annual average construction employment up by 20 jobs over 2019, Lincoln County the same as 2019, Columbia down by 10 construction jobs, and Tillamook County down 20 construction jobs.

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