Serving Up Summer Jobs

by Erik Knoder

May 16, 2019

Oregon has been adding nearly 18,000 farm jobs and 56,000 nonfarm private-sector jobs from winter to summer for the past three years, making it fairly easy for teens and others to pick up a summer job. Industries adding many summer jobs in Oregon include agriculture, leisure and hospitality, construction, retail trade, and temporary help services. Popular occupations added in the summer include farmworkers, waiters and waitresses, construction laborers, cashiers, and groundskeepers.

Summer on the Farm

Despite agriculture generating a far smaller share of jobs than it did historically, it is still the number one industry for creating summer jobs in Oregon. Over the past three years agriculture added an average of nearly 18,000 direct jobs from winter to summer (January-March versus July-September). Agriculture provides about 49,000 jobs in the winter, which means an employment increase of more than one-third from winter to summer. Farmworkers and laborers for crops, nurseries, and greenhouses is by far the most-common occupation in agriculture. Oregon generates an estimated 4,000 total openings each year for new farmworkers. The number of total openings in a year includes those due to occupational turnover and replacement (retirement) as well as for growth of the industry. Being a farmworker requires physical strength and mobility but doesn’t require extensive education or training. Accordingly, the occupation has few barriers to entry and usually pays a fairly low wage, about $13 per hour on average.

Nonfarm Industries

Almost all industries in Oregon have added jobs over the past three summers. But Oregon has been adding jobs overall since 2011, which makes it harder to distinguish jobs that last for just the summer from the growth in permanent jobs which can also occur during the summer. Fortunately, the Oregon Employment Department and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics calculate factors to measure how much employment usually varies from month to month in many nonfarm industries based on many years of data. These seasonal factors tell us how much we should expect employment to change each month, which we can then compare with how much employment actually changed.

The industry with the largest gain from winter to summer is usually accommodation and food services, which is part of the broader leisure and hospitality industry. The seasonal factor for this industry suggests that it should add nearly 16,000 jobs in the summer, and for the last three years the industry has added about 15,000 jobs each summer – so it is performing pretty much as expected. The most common occupations in the industry are waiters and waitresses, food preparation and serving workers, cooks, supervisors, bartenders, counter attendants, and maids and housekeeping cleaners. Although jobs are usually plentiful (there are about 7,200 total openings per year for new waiters and waitresses), wages are usually fairly low (about $12 per hour for waiters and waitresses). Many of these occupations don’t require extensive education and often just on-the-job training so they are available to many job seekers.

Construction has had the second-largest gain in summer employment in recent years. Its seasonal factor suggests that it should add about 8,800 jobs each summer, but it has been handily beating this by adding more than 11,000 jobs from winter to summer. Part of this exceptional seasonal gain is due to the addition of permanent jobs that happen in the summer; the construction industry added about 14,000 total jobs on an annual average basis from 2016 through 2018. Common occupations in construction are carpenters, laborers, electricians, plumbers and pipefitters, supervisors, office clerks, and painters. The industry is expected to need about 2,500 new carpenters and 2,100 new laborers each year, but construction occupations often require some training beyond high school. Wages are higher for most occupations compared with the leisure and hospitality industry. The average wage for carpenters is around $23 per hour.

Administrative and waste services was the number three sector for providing summer jobs. This catch-all industry includes call centers, travel agencies, janitorial services, and trade show organizers. Crucially for summer job seekers, it also includes temporary help services (employment services), landscaping services, and, to a lesser extent, security guard and patrol services. Employment services businesses are the largest segment of the administrative and waste services industry. The entire administrative and waste services industry has added about 6,400 jobs during the recent summers. This is about one-third less than the industry’s seasonal factors would lead us to expect. It may be that in a tight labor market employers are hiring more of their workers directly. Because these temporary help workers can be working in any other industry it is difficult to determine what occupations are needed by these businesses. For the rest of the administrative and waste services sector, landscapers and groundskeepers and security guards are common occupations. Oregon needs about 2,100 new landscapers and groundskeepers each year, and they earn about $16 per hour on average. There should be about 1,300 total openings each year for new security guards. The average wage for this occupation is about $14 per hour.

The final nonfarm industry well known for summer jobs is retail trade. This sector has been adding nearly 6,000 summer jobs over the past three years. The seasonal factor for retail trade yields an expected addition of about 5,000 jobs per summer, so retail has been beating expectations. Retail trade employment as grown by more than 4,000 jobs on an annual average basis over the past three years. This overall growth explains some of the high growth in summer job counts. The top two occupations in this industry are, unsurprisingly, retail salesperson and cashier. We expect more than 10,000 total openings per year for new retail salespeople, making it the top occupation overall for number of openings. Typical pay is around $14 per hour. There should be nearly 9,000 total openings for new cashiers each year; it is the number two occupation in Oregon for number of total openings each year. Cashiers make around $12 per hour on average in Oregon.

The Fewest Summer Jobs

Perhaps surprisingly, Oregon’s most seasonally variable “industry” is local government, but it is a poor target for summer-job hunters. Employment in local government falls drastically in the summer when public schools are closed and teacher and staff are on holiday. Private education has a similar pattern, low employment in the summer and higher in the winter. Education workers who want to work summers may have better luck looking outside their industry.

Other industries that are bad bets for summer hiring are information, management of companies and enterprises, and finance and insurance. These sectors have very little seasonal fluctuation in employment.

Hiring Summer Workers

Finding enough summer workers in a tight labor market is challenging. Employers advertise, network with existing employees, and offer hiring bonuses. They can also call their local Oregon Employment WorkSource Office to place free job listings, get assistance with writing attention-getting and legal recruitment announcements, and with setting competitive wages for their area.


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