Only 5% of Jobs in Central Oregon Pay Minimum Wage

by Kale Donnelly

July 7, 2021

On July 1st, Oregon’s three-tiered minimum wage levels saw their rates increase as scheduled, making Oregon’s wage floor one of the highest in the U.S. These scheduled increases have been standard practice in the state since 2016, and we’ll see the last stepped increase in 2022. Beginning in 2023, Oregon’s minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation to ensure that the purchasing power of minimum wage earners doesn’t deteriorate as the price of housing and consumer goods inevitably goes up. On July 1, for areas within the Portland UGB, the minimum wage increased from $13.25 to $14.00; the “standard” minimum wage increased from $12.00 to $12.75; and non-urban counties increased from $11.50 to $12.00.

In Central Oregon, our wage file shows that 5.1% of total nonfarm jobs paid minimum wage or less in the third quarter of 2020 compared with Oregon’s share of 6.1%. Despite its reputation for being a tourism-centric area, Deschutes County ranks lowest for its share of minimum wage jobs among Oregon’s metro areas, tied with Multnomah County at 5.1% of jobs. Now, we typically compute our county-level wage file analyses for the third quarter in any given year, but keep in mind that this period in 2020 was right in the middle of the state’s COVID restrictions. Jobs in lower-paying industries were disproportionately impacted over the last 15 months due to the public-facing nature of their work leaving them unable to work remotely. These industries, such as leisure and hospitality and retail trade, also account for the region’s greatest shares of minimum wage jobs. Therefore, the number of minimum wage jobs in Central Oregon decreased from 5,992 in the third quarter of 2019 to 5,506 in the third quarter of 2020.
Still, this downward shift in minimum wage jobs between the two years is almost entirely due to the business restrictions that largely affected restaurants, bars, hotels, and retailers. However, the overall share of minimum wage jobs was largely unchanged from 5.2% in third quarter 2019 to 5.1% the following year. How could this be? Well, this is largely because many workers’ hourly earnings in lower-paying industries such as leisure and hospitality and retail trade are slightly-to-moderately higher than the actual minimum wage. So, the full scale of lower-wage job losses aren’t captured when looking only at minimum wage jobs.

Since Central Oregon’s economic recovery since third quarter 2020 has been largely positive, we can comfortably assume that minimum wage jobs in the region are at or above the level of ~6,000 jobs the region had in third quarter 2019. Overall, the table above offers a glance into how many minimum wage jobs in Central Oregon saw wage gains since Oregon’s scheduled minimum wage increase took effect on July 1st.

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