The Benefits of Working in the Eastern Six

by Christopher Rich

February 19, 2019

The Oregon Employment Department recently published Employer-Provided Benefits: Offerings, Enrollment, and Rising Costs, a detailed report on statewide trends in compensation other than wages. The report serves as an update to benefits research done by the Department in 2005 and 2012. It was compiled after analyzing survey results from nearly 4,600 Oregon employers in seven geographic regions between June and August 2018. The survey asked private employers from all industries, class sizes, and regions of the state about the benefits offered to their full-time and part-time employees. While the report highlights some regional results, it primarily focuses on trends at the state level. The following is a more detailed look at findings for the Eastern Six region (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Union, and Wallowa).
Of the 2,236 firms in the Eastern Six, a survey was sent to 819 of them and the Employment Department received back 374 responses. This means that nearly 17 percent of all firms in the Eastern Six provided input for the survey. In fact, the Eastern Six had the highest survey response rate (46%) among regions.

One key takeaway from the report is that the Eastern Six trails behind other regions of the state when it comes to the share of employers offering benefits. In almost all benefits categories, the Eastern Six had the smallest share of employers offering benefits when compared with other regions. For example, only 60 percent of Eastern Six employers offered any kind of benefit, compared with 65 percent of Coast employers (the region with second smallest share) and 84 percent of Portland MSA employers (the region with the largest share). This finding could be explained by the survey’s error range (+/- 4.6%) for the Eastern Six; meaning there could actually be more or fewer employers offering benefits. However, this key takeaway is not unexpected.

The vast majority of privately owned firms in the Eastern Six have 19 or fewer employees and roughly 80 percent have nine or fewer. Statewide results of the benefits survey show that 95 percent of Oregon’s large employers (50 or more employees) offered some type of benefit, while this was true for only 54 percent of small employers (nine or fewer employees). Large employers likely have an easier time absorbing costs associated with benefits, whether it be direct costs such as employer contributions or less direct costs such as time and staff devoted to benefits administration. Given the large number of small employers in the Eastern Six region, it’s not surprising that so many firms reported not offering benefits.

Keep in mind that the key takeaway tells us how many employers offer benefits, not how many employees receive benefits. It’s likely that a large number of workers in the region still have access to at least some benefits through their employers. This is
because even though small employers account for 80 percent of firms in the region, more than half of the region’s private employment comes from firms that have 50 or more employees. These large firms, which are more likely to offer benefits, are concentrated more heavily in Baker, Malheur, and Union than in Grant, Harney, and Wallowa.
A second key takeaway from the benefits survey is that full-time employees are much more likely than part-time employees are to have access to benefits through their employers. For example, 33 percent of Eastern Six employers offered medical benefits to full-time employees whereas just 6 percent made this benefit available to part-time employees. The benefit offered most to part-time employees was an annual pay raise. Annual pay raises were offered to part-time employees by 25 percent of employers and to full-time employees by 37 percent of employers.
For Oregon overall, 57 percent of employers offered medical benefits to full-time employees and just 10 percent offered the benefit to part-time employees. Portland MSA had the largest share for the two employee categories among the regions: 71 percent for full-time and 15 percent for part-time. The Coast was second from last in offering medical to full-time employees (42%), but last in offering medical to part-time employees (4%). Annual pay raises for full-time employees were offered by 51 percent of all Oregon employers, 61 percent of Portland employers, and 38 percent of Coast employers. The same offering for part-time employees came from 36 percent of all Oregon employers, 44 percent of Portland employers, and 28 percent of Coast employers.

Apart from annual pay raises, paid leave was the group of benefits offered most often to part-time employees. Paid sick leave was offered to part-timers by 21 percent of employers. Paid holidays and paid vacation were offered by 15 percent of employers and 12 percent of employers, respectively. Paid holidays, vacation, and sick leave were offered to full-time employees by more than one-third of employers. The prevalence of sick leave benefits for both part-time and full-time employees may be influenced by recent state policies expanding paid sick leave requirements.

Less than 10 percent of employers in the Eastern Six offered health or retirement benefits in general to part-time employees. For full-time employees these benefits were offered by less than one-fourth of employers. Child care was the benefit offered least. Just 1 percent of employers provided this benefit to their employees.

Altogether 60 percent of Eastern Six employers offered some type of benefits, however no single benefit was offered by more than 39 percent of employers. Full-time employees were nearly five times as likely to be offered medical coverage and two times as likely to be offered retirement than part-timers. Other than leave and pay raises, few employers offered benefits to part-time employees in 2018.


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