Self-Employment in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

December 3, 2021

Total employment was about 119,200 in Northwest Oregon in 2018, and roughly 17,600 (15%) of the jobs were from self-employment. Self-employment (formally called a nonemployer establishment) is counted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Of the remaining jobs in Northwest Oregon (Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties), about 96,700 (81%) were included in the Oregon Employment Department’s unemployment insurance program. The remaining 4% work as employees in industries or occupations are excluded from unemployment insurance, such as some agricultural and domestic workers and some commercial fishers who are paid by a share of their catch. Self-employed people are also exempt from the unemployment insurance program.

There is some vagueness in the numbers of the self-employed and it arises from what is counted as a nonemployer establishment. The Census Bureau collects data from federal income tax returns to count nonemployers. It is possible to have more than one person included on a tax return (joint filing), so it is possible to have more than one job in one nonemployer establishment. The 17,614 nonemployer establishments in Northwest Oregon in 2018 probably include somewhat more than 17,614 self-employed individuals, but how many is unknown. Additionally, the Census Bureau includes only those nonemployers that have annual business receipts of $1,000 or more (or $1 or more in the construction industry). So some very small self-employment enterprises are not included.
Professional and technical services was the industry with the most nonemployer establishments in Northwest Oregon. This industry includes lawyers, accountants, tax preparers, architects, engineers, landscapers, interior designers, computer programmers, scientists, photographers, and veterinarians. There is quite a variety of professional offices in this industry and many opportunities for self-employment.

The real estate industry had the second-largest number of nonemployers. This industry includes many self-employed real estate brokers. Retail trade was the third-largest industry for self-employment. This industry included nonstore retailers who conduct internet sales. The other services industry was the fourth-largest, and it includes mechanics, barbers and beauticians, home maintenance workers, and workers in private households. At the other end of frequency, there were only three self-employed workers in the utility industry in Northwest Oregon.

The frequency of self-employment by industry does not follow the same frequency of payroll employment by industry. Leisure and hospitality, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing are the largest private-sector payroll employers in Northwest Oregon. Self-employment offers different opportunities for workers in the region. The Oregon Employment Department has a Self-Employment Assistance Program for qualified people who are eligible for unemployment benefits to pursue self-employment. People can get more information about the program at their local Worksource Center.


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