Take Note Eastern Oregon of Who Had You Covered in 2016

by Christopher Rich

July 18, 2017

There are basically two sources for industry level employment data in Oregon: Current Employment Estimates (CES) and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). CES data is produced monthly to provide the most up-to-date industry employment trends. QCEW data is published quarterly with approximately a four month lag.

For sparsely populated areas such as Grant County, CES data generally covers the broad sector level. For heavily populated areas such as Portland, more detailed industry level employment is published. Regardless of the level of industry detail, CES data is simply about employment levels.

QCEW is often referred to as covered employment. This is because the information published is from businesses whose employees are covered by unemployment insurance. This data is obtained through unemployment insurance tax reports submitted quarterly by employers subject to Employment Department law. The vast majority of workers in Oregon are covered by unemployment insurance, but there are a few exceptions. Two notable exceptions are the self-employed and agricultural labor performed for a farm with a quarterly payroll of less than $20,000 or not employing at least 10 persons in each of 20 separate weeks during any calendar year.

QCEW data provides detailed industry employment levels for all counties both large and small. A nice thing about covered employment data is that it also includes payroll information, which provides total wages for each industry. Using this in conjunction with total employment by industry, we can calculate an industry’s average wage. We can use this data to track how employment and wages expand or contract over time.

What’s Growing Around Here

Employment and wage growth occurred in almost all industries in Eastern Oregon from 2015 to 2016. In total, Eastern Oregon employment increased 2.7 percent to 71,813 jobs and the average annual wage increased 1.4 percent to $37,342. Private firms added 1,577 jobs and matched the overall average wage growth for the region (1.4%). Public firms added 333 jobs and the average wage grew by 1.7 percent. Similar gains were seen at the state level; Oregon gained 3.1 percent in private employment and 2.2 percent in public employment – 3.0 percent growth overall. Wage growth was a bit higher at the state level, rising 2.3 percent in private employment and 2.9 percent in public employment – 2.4 percent overall.
The information industry saw employment slip by 12 jobs in Eastern Oregon, but total payroll for the industry increased by close to $200,000 and the industry’s average annual wage grew by 3.1 percent. In Oregon as a whole, employment in information grew by only 0.5 percent while the average wage grew by 2.3 percent.

Employment in state government dropped 8.5 percent since 2015 while local government employment gained 7.3 percent. This was actually a shift of employment at Eastern Oregon University from state to local government due to the reclassification of public university employment that occurred in 2014 and 2015. The shift was included in the QCEW data beginning in the first quarter of 2016.

Umatilla County saw employment in tribal government grow by 10.3 percent over the year with total payroll growing 12.6 percent and the average annual wage rising by $765. For the state overall, tribal employment increased 2.5 percent, total payroll gained 4.3 percent, and the average wage rose $655. While tribal government employment was also seen in Harney, Wallowa, and Morrow counties in 2016, these counties were excluded from the tribal government portion of this analysis due to confidentiality. 

Employment growth was strongest for the region in natural resources and mining; construction; and other services. Natural resources and mining saw employment increase by 6.8 percent over the year (+437 jobs). Increases occurred mainly in Malheur (+150 jobs) and Umatilla counties (+234 jobs) while Grant, Union, and Wallowa counties each saw a slight decrease. Total payroll for the industry rose by $13.5 million (+6.5%), but the average annual wage decreased by $100 (-0.3%). At the state level, the industry’s employment dropped 0.5 percent, total payroll grew by 2.2 percent, and the average wage increased by $887 (+2.7%).

Construction employment for the region (excluding Morrow) also grew by 6.8 percent over the year (+140). Gains were seen in six counties with Baker (+33), Malheur (+34), and Union (+44) adding the most jobs. There were 15 new firms added to the list of construction businesses, which totaled 502 in 2016. Total payroll jumped 10.1 percent adding $8.5 million to the region’s economy and the average annual wage climbed $1,251. For Oregon overall, construction employment grew 8.4 percent from 2015 to 2016, total payroll increased 13.0 percent, and the average wage climbed $2,244.

Employment in other services rose 5.8 percent in Eastern Oregon (excluding Morrow) for the year (+135 jobs). Growth was spread throughout the region with more populous counties seeing the most growth and less populous counties seeing the least growth. Total payroll grew $3.7 million (+7.4%) and the average wage increased $323 (+1.5%). Oregon’s story was similar, though more pronounced; 6.5 percent employment growth, 9.3 percent total wage growth, and the average wage increased $779 (+2.6%).

This analysis focuses primarily on industries that had the largest employment gains in terms of percentages, but there are other ways to analyze the data. All industries in Eastern Oregon had at least some bright spot in one or all of the following categories: business units added, employment gains, total payroll increases, or growth in average annual wages. Taken as a whole, Eastern Oregon’s economy was looking up in 2016.


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