Oregon’s High-Tech Employment Trends – What Is High Tech?

Oregon’s High-Tech Employment Trends – What Is High Tech?

by Emily Starbuck

November 22, 2017

The high-tech industry is a crucial and dynamic piece of Oregon's economy. In June 2017, private-sector employment in high tech was 93,244 and contributed more than $10 billion in covered payroll to the state's workers.

Like most sectors, high tech saw significant employment losses during the Great Recession. Employment peaked at 85,430 in July 2008 and began rapidly declining, reaching a trough of 71,829 in January 2010. From peak to trough, the industry shed 13,600 jobs or 16 percent of its workforce. In contrast, total employment across all industries during the same period declined by 9 percent. Fortunately, the industry has rebounded significantly since, and surpassed its pre-recession peak employment in mid-2014.

What Is High Tech?

The high-tech industry does not have one standard definition or official government code. Instead, it is a mix of service and manufacturing businesses from a variety of industries. High tech means different things to different people and organizations.

Prior to 2013, the Oregon Employment Department (OED) defined high tech as three computer-related North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes: computer and electronic product manufacturing (NAICS 334), systems design and related services (NAICS 5415), and software publishing (NAICS 5112).

In 2013, OED decided to change its definition to include a broader array of industries in which high-tech occupations are highly concentrated. As such, its newest high tech “list” is a better, more comprehensive view of industries that produce innovative, technologically advanced products and services. It also corresponds with the definition currently used nationally by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Industry Landscape and Demographics

High tech accounts for 6 percent of all covered private-sector employment statewide. Across its 11 sub-sectors, employment varies greatly. One-third of employment is concentrated in semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing. In fact, employment in this industry is over six times more concentrated in Oregon than it is nationally. Other major high-tech industries in Oregon include computer systems design, architectural and engineering services, and software publishers.

High-tech firms are located all over the state, but the majority are found in our largest metropolitan areas: Portland, Eugene, and Bend. Tech firms also have a presence along the Oregon coast, the Interstate 5 corridor, and in northeastern Oregon near Interstate 84.

In both Oregon and the United States overall, high-tech employment is disproportionally male. Males account for 70 percent of employment in high-tech, compared with 53 percent of employment across all industries.

High-tech workers are also more likely to be of “prime working age,” which is generally defined as ages 25 to 54. More than three-quarters of high-tech workers fall into this age group, compared with 65 percent of workers across all industries. Younger workers (ages 14 to 24) are not as common, most likely due to the postsecondary training required for this industry. Workers over age 55 have a similar share of employment in both the high-tech industry and all industries, at 20 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

High Wages, High Educational Requirements

At the industry level, average wages in high-tech are some of the highest in the state. In 2016, the industry’s average annual wage was more than $109,000. Across high-tech’s sub-sectors, wages vary greatly, from a high of more than $144,000 in semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing to $71,000 in communications equipment manufacturing. Compared with the statewide average annual average wage of $49,467, high-tech industries have high-wage jobs.

Wages also vary across the occupational spectrum. Average wages are highest for architectural and engineering managers ($161,009), computer and information systems managers ($123,231), and systems software developers ($104,913). Wages are lowest for the industry’s electrical and electronic equipment assemblers ($36,589), secretaries and administrative assistants ($36,308), and semiconductor processors ($36,247). In high-tech (as with other industries, in general), higher wage jobs require a greater degree of educational attainment. Nearly half of all jobs in the high-tech industry require a bachelor’s degree or higher to be competitive for a position.

A Promising Future

The Oregon Employment Department forecasts the high-tech industry will grow by 20 percent between 2014 and 2024 (compared with 14 percent growth across all industries). The future is particularly promising for the computer systems design industry, with a projected growth rate of 40 percent. Regardless of the losses suffered during the last (and other) recessions, high-tech’s dominant presence will continue to enhance Oregon’s ability to compete and succeed, both locally and globally.