Oregon Christmas Trees Create Jobs During the Holiday Season

by Brian Rooney

December 14, 2020

‘Tis the season when Oregonians will shop on the internet, bake cookies, and buy or cut a Christmas tree grown in their home state. In fact, across the nation, people will be purchasing a tree grown in Oregon, helping to create jobs.

Oregon is the number one Christmas tree producing state in the nation, according to data from the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, with roughly $120.6 million in sales and 4.7 million trees harvested in 2017. Most of the harvested trees are either Noble fir (54%) or Douglas fir (32%).

About 92% of Pacific Northwest Christmas trees were exported out of the region with 45% headed to California and 16% headed to Mexico. The balance were sent to other regions of the U.S.

Employment

A lot of work goes into getting Oregon Christmas trees to market as fresh and green as possible. It starts with growing the trees, then wholesale sales, then a tight harvest window, and then transportation to market. However, counting employment in Oregon’s Christmas tree industry is difficult since the production and selling are included in several broad industries with other commodities. These include the following:

  • Nursery and tree production – comprises companies engaged in nursery stock, shrubbery, bulbs, and woody trees with a growth and harvest cycle of 10 years or less.
  • Other miscellaneous nondurable goods merchant wholesalers – comprises companies involved in merchant wholesale distribution of nondurable goods from agricultural products to pet supplies to textile bags.
  • Other direct selling establishments – comprises establishments engaged in nonstore retail sales by means such as in-house sales, truck or wagon sales, and portable stalls.
It is likely that Christmas tree growing creates the most jobs in this industry, especially during the harvest, which occurs just before the holidays. Since Christmas tree growers are required to have a license from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, we can get a rough idea of the magnitude of the industry. There are 355 licensed Christmas tree growers in Oregon cultivating roughly 45,000 acres.

We can look at an annual trend of payroll employment by matching company names from ODA licenses with records from the Oregon Employment Department’s Unemployment Insurance program. A search produced 42 matches.

In 2019, payroll employment at these companies held steady in the spring and summer and then spiked with the harvest in November, reaching roughly 800 workers. Annual average employment was 401 and annual average pay was $34,147.
Obviously, many growers are sole proprietors or family farms that have little or no payroll employment and are not required to report to the UI program. Many of the growers tend the trees and then hire temporary workers for the harvest or contract out the harvest. With more than 300 growers not included in the payroll employment companies above, it is likely that hundreds, if not thousands more are employed growing Christmas trees over the year.

So, while you are decorating your tree, baking cookies or enjoying a hot cocoa this holiday season, remember the thousands of workers that hustle to get that Oregon Christmas tree to you as fresh and green as possible.

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