Occupational Wages in Northwest Oregon in 2021

by Erik Knoder

July 7, 2021

The average wage in Northwest Oregon is lower than the statewide average, but much of the difference is due to the prevalence of lower-wage occupations in the area – the most common occupation in the region is fast food and counter workers followed by retail salespersons. When comparing wages for the same occupations, Northwest Oregon is closer to statewide levels than the average difference would suggest, and some local occupations even pay more than is typical for the state.

The Oregon Employment Department estimates wages for more than 350 occupations in Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties combined. The highest-paying occupation in the region with a published wage was obstetricians and gynecologists which had an estimated annual average wage of $297,084 in 2021.
Most of the occupations with higher wages were in medicine or management, although some specialty occupations such as judges, wholesale sales representatives, lawyers, engineers, ships captains, and electric power-line installers, earned more than $100,000 per year. The lowest wages, $27,867, $27,915 and $28,532, were for life guards, dining room attendants, and food preparation workers, respectively. Childcare workers were also near the bottom of the wage ranks with an annual average wage of $29,472.

Occupational wages in Northwest Oregon are estimated from a survey of local employers. Wages for many different occupations in the region are available – the exact number differs each year. This article presents the 2021 wages for selected occupations in the region.

Not all occupations in the region have published wages. This may be the case for confidentiality reasons (only one or two firms employ an occupation), if only a few employees work in the occupation (too few in the sample), if the occupation is primarily self-employed (such as farmers), for some occupations if the wage is more than $208,000 per year,
or if the wages reported in the sample for Northwest Oregon are substantially different than those for other regions (an indication of poor data quality).

It may also be the case that wages for very specific occupations are not reported. For example, the wages for registered nurses are reported but the wage survey doesn’t distinguish between operating room nurses and cardiac care nurses.

Wages for Selected Occupations

Not only are occupational wages typically lower in Northwest Oregon, but the region has many jobs in low-wage occupations. The most common occupation is fast food and counter workers. Retail salespersons, cashiers, waiters and waitresses, maids and housekeeping cleaners, and teaching assistants are other common occupations.
The wages for these and a few other more common occupations are given in the table. Wages in Northwest Oregon usually follow the same pattern as they do elsewhere. Wages are usually low for occupations requiring less education and fewer skills and higher for occupations demanding more preparation and investment in training and education. Because so many jobs in Northwest Oregon require few skills, wages are often in the $14 to $22 per hour range. Wages for more skilled occupations, such as truck drivers and registered nurses, are higher. The median wage for all occupations was $19.84 – 7.5% higher than the previous year. Wages for other occupations can be found at qualityinfo.org by following the link to Jobs & Careers then the Occupation & Wage Information and searching for the occupation of interest.

Wages for Broad Occupational Groups

Reviewing occupational wages is a useful step in planning a career. The table below presents the size and average wages for broad occupational groups instead of for specific occupations. Healthcare practitioners, management, legal, engineering, and computer groups lead the wage list and some had wages that were nearly twice the average for all occupations. Many of the specific occupations in these top groups require advanced education and training. Unfortunately, with the exception of health care practitioners and management these occupational groups don’t provide plentiful jobs in Northwest Oregon’s economy. Legal, computer, and engineering occupational groups provide fewer than 2,000 jobs each.
Lower-wage occupational groups, including food preparation and serving, personal care, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, and sales occupations, are filled with specific occupations that generally require less education. Some specific occupations in these lower-wage occupation groups do pay well. For example, some sales people make very high wages. Sales engineers had average wages around $101,000 per year. Wholesale sales and construction are generally recognized as two occupational categories where it is possible to make above-average wages without having formal post-secondary education or training.

Occupational Wages

Wage data presented here are collected through the Occupational Employment and Wage Survey (OEWS), a semi-annual survey measuring occupational employment and wage rates for payroll workers by industry. In Oregon, the survey samples more than 6,000 establishments a year, taking three years to fully collect the sample of 19,000 establishments.

The OEWS survey defines employment as workers covered by unemployment insurance. Wages are straight-time gross pay excluding premium pay and nonwage fringe benefits. Base pay rates, tips, commissions and certain types of production bonuses are included. Exclusions include overtime pay, housing allowances and nonproduction bonuses.

More detailed information is available in the Oregon Wage Information publication that is updated each June at www.QualityInfo.org.

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