Oregon’s Membership Associations and Organizations

by Kale Donnelly

January 2, 2019

The subsector of membership associations and organizations in Oregon may be small, but it is mighty. The eclectic mix of establishments within this subsector aim to provide funding for various charitable causes, actively promote causes and beliefs for the public good, and ultimately carry the torch for their membership base to provide them with professional representation. Ranging from religious organizations, social advocacy, and labor unions, this subsector is a shining example of the saying, “Big things come in small packages.”

The Industry Composition

Overall, the employment of membership associations and organizations represented a little less than 2 percent of Oregon’s total nonfarm employment in 2017. This equates to a little over 30,000 jobs. However, if you consider the size of the groups represented by these organizations – churches, unions, chambers of commerce, mental and physical health advocates, and more – you can see that the efforts of a small portion of covered workers reach a large swath of Oregonians. Looking at the industry mix we see that the employment of religious organizations controls the lion’s share of employment in membership associations and organizations, dwarfing the second greatest share of employment of social advocacy organizations by more than 40 percentage points. This narrative is echoed throughout the vast majority of Oregon’s counties. Multnomah County is one exception that sticks out amongst the rest due its substantial share of employment (roughly 25 percent of subsector employment) in social advocacy organizations.
Comparing Recent Growth to Oregon

When looking at how the membership associations and organizations subsector weathered the Great Recession, we see that the trend was similar, yet subtly different than Oregon’s total nonfarm employment. By indexing both groups to their pre-recession peak employment levels, we can see how the employment landscape shifted in relation to each relative pre-recession peak. Overall, the membership associations and organizations subsector hemorrhaged jobs slower than the rest of the state in the early stages of the recession, lost a smaller share of peak employment, and was a little slower to recover.
What’s most noticeable is the accelerated employment growth in this subsector, starting near the seven-year mark after its pre-recession peak – around the third quarter of 2015. A few months before this newly pace of growth took hold, Measure 91 went in to effect, thus allowing Oregonians to grow and possess marijuana for recreational use. Following this event was a surge in not only employment in dispensaries, but the number of dispensaries as well. With the doors of this industry metaphorically opened up, many employers wanted to capitalize on this newly legalized product and get their hands in this lucrative honey pot (pun intended). Fast forward a year and a half and another legislative change required marijuana establishments to operate as either recreational or medical, starting in January 2017. With this change came a reclassification of establishments who shifted to a recreational focus. The vast majority of marijuana establishments previously coded in the subsector were recoded into the retail trade sector, where recreational marijuana establishments now reside. For more information on this transition, take a look at this recent article. This legislative change helps explain the dip that occurs near month 97 in the graph above. Had the reclassification not taken place, the employment growth of memberships associations and organizations would have likely outpaced the state’s growth in total nonfarm employment. Regardless, this subsector has recovered its recessionary employment losses and continues to grow at about the same rate as overall employment.

A Few Notes

When parsing through various demographic data for this subsector, there were some interesting differences between membership associations and organizations, and Oregon’s total nonfarm employment. While 53 percent of Oregon’s jobs were filled by someone with some college, an associate’s degree or higher, the subsector above touted 59 percent of its workforce with the same educational attainment levels. It turns out that this subsector is also comprised of a significantly older labor force, where 33 percent of workers were over the age of 55, compared with Oregon’s 23 percent share of workers over 55. Also, the share of women employed in this subsector rang in at 58 percent – a full 9 percentage points above the state’s total nonfarm employment.

Another interesting discussion surrounds potential employment effects of this year’s Janus decision – a Supreme Court decision in June of 2018 ruling that requiring employees (represented by unions) to pay agency fees covering the cost of collective bargaining was a violation of first amendment rights. With that requirement being dropped nationwide, there are many individuals and entities speculating how labor unions will move forward with this loss in revenue. In Oregon, there have yet to be any noticeable employment effects within the “labor unions and similar labor organizations” industry that we can attribute to this recent Supreme Court decision.

Small Employment, Big Impact

The membership associations and organizations subsector is diverse, with an eclectic assortment of industries and business activities. While less than 2 percent of the state’s employment can be found in this subsector, the activities undertaken by its establishments are far reaching throughout the state. The majority of Oregonians are more than likely affected by those churches, unions, chambers of commerce, mental and physical health advocates, and more. While one drop of water may not drastically effect a lake, or a river, it’s the beautiful ripples across the surface that remind us of the effect that just one drop of water can have.


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