Self-Employment in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

June 12, 2019

There were about 107,500 jobs in Northwest Oregon in 2016, and roughly 14,500 (13%) of them were from self-employment. Self-employment (formally called a nonemployer establishment) is counted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The remaining 93,000 jobs in Northwest Oregon (Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties) were counted by the Oregon Employment Department as part of its unemployment insurance tax program. Self-employed people are exempt from unemployment insurance.

The vagueness in the numbers 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 14,482 nonemployer establishments in Northwest Oregon in 2016 probably include more than 14,482 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 the many self-employed real estate brokers. The other services industry was the third-largest, and it includes mechanics, barbers and beauticians, home maintenance workers, and workers in private households. At the other end of frequency, there were three self-employed miners in Northwest Oregon. Apparently there is not much gold in them thar hills of the Coast Range.

The frequency of self-employment does not follow the frequency of payroll employment. Leisure and hospitality, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, and educational services are the largest 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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