Oregon Employment Services: Back Above 40,000 Jobs

by David Cooke

May 4, 2022

Employment services is an Oregon industry that has bounced back from the COVID-19 recession. It employed 42,300 in March, which was close to its average employment during 2017 through 2019 when it averaged 41,700 jobs. As the accompanying chart shows, industry employment dropped to slightly above 30,000 jobs at the outset of the pandemic recession in early 2020.
Looking further back in time, the industry is close to its prior peaks in the late 1990s and then again just prior to the 2008 recession. The industry hasn’t grown longer term, to keep pace with Oregon’s steady increase in overall population.

The chart below shows employment in the industry as a share of Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment, which is the broadest measure of jobs based on the Current Employment Statistics survey. We see that its share of overall jobs peaked at 3% in 2000, but is now down to 2.2% of total nonfarm jobs. This is an indication that client businesses have a lower demand for temporary help supply services than they did overall back in the mid-to-late 1990s. Back then, there was high demand for these temp help workers, especially in certain manufacturing industries such as semiconductor manufacturing.
A few other general characteristics can be spotted from the above charts. First, the industry was quite seasonal 10 to 30 years ago, but has become less seasonal over the last few years. This possibly reflects a reduction in the share of client businesses in cyclical industries such as nondurable goods manufacturing.

Second, employment services is cyclical, dropping during recessions followed by job gains during economic recovery and expansion periods.

Third, although the industry has a reputation as a leading indicator to recessions, the Oregon experience since 1990 looks to be perhaps more of a coincident indicator, meaning that any downturn in the industry doesn’t seem to consistently lead the overall economy into a recession.

In Oregon, most of the jobs in employment services are found in firms classified in temporary help services, which had 1,158 business units covered by Unemployment Insurance, encompassing 32,382 jobs in 2021. These workers brought in more than $1.5 billion in wages for the year, which translates to an annual average wage of $48,436. These stats come from the Employment and Wages by Industry (QCEW) database found on QualityInfo.org.

Average annual wages reached $81,560 in another major component industry, employment placement agencies. But this industry only employed 1,265 in Oregon last year.

The third component industry highlighted, professional employer organizations, accounted for 5,789 jobs in 2021, with average annual wages of $59,980. This industry has grown a lot over the past 10 years, especially since 2018. It employed a little more than 2,000 in 2010 through 2013. Establishments in this industry operate in a co-employment relationship with client businesses and are specialized in performing a wide range of personnel management duties such as payroll, tax preparation, and recruiting.

Using the “Find Employers” tool within the “Jobs & Careers” section of QualityInfo.org, a search for professional employer organizations shows firms in medical staff relief such as Ihealth Medical Staffing Inc. in Portland, and modeling agencies such as Muse Models in Portland.

The employers list for temporary help services contains 78 employers located throughout the major metro areas of Oregon. These include recognizable firms such as Barrett Business Services Inc, which can be found in many Oregon cities. Manpower, in Salem, is another familiar name. Both of these firms are classified as “employment contractors-temporary help,” as are the vast majority of Oregon firms classified in temporary help supply.

Another type of business represented is “bartending service” such as Anna’s Island Café in Portland and Jack’s Full Moon Saloon in Phoenix. These establishments happen to fall under the classification of the temporary help services industry rather than the eating and drinking establishments industry.

Employment services continues to be a valuable supplier of labor to its clients. Firms from across industries benefit from the services provided by this sector. Many employment services firms are closely aligned with the goods and services produced by their client firms.


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