The Difference a Year Makes: Recent Hiring Trends in the Portland Metro Area

The Difference a Year Makes: Recent Hiring Trends in the Portland Metro Area

by Amy Vander Vliet

June 8, 2016

The Portland metro area is adding jobs at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent thus far in 2016. A year ago that figure was 3.3 percent. Not all that different, right? But a look below this relatively smooth and consistent surface reveals some changes and churn.

The first four months of 2015:

The economy was firing on all cylinders, growing by more than 3 percent (annualized), or about 35,400 jobs over the year.

  • Construction was losing jobs (annualized), while all other broad industries were gaining.
  • Manufacturing was growing steadily and outperforming the overall economy.
  • There wasn't a lot of disparity in growth rates among broad industries (excluding construction), ranging from a low of 2.8 percent in the government sector to 4.7 percent in professional and business services.
  • Employment services, which includes temporary help – often considered a bellwether for broader hiring – was up 8 percent over the year.

The first four months of 2016:

Fast forward to today, and the region is still growing by more than 3 percent over the year (35,500 jobs). But the sources of growth and some underlying trends have changed.

  • Construction is now the fastest-growing broad industry, growing more than twice as fast as the overall economy.
  • Manufacturing is up less than 1 percent over the year, and is in danger of approaching negative territory once Intel's layoffs show up in the numbers (most likely in June's report).
  • There is greater disparity in growth rates, even after excluding construction's blistering 8.1 percent: 0.9 percent in manufacturing to 4.3 percent in private education and health services. 
  • Employment services is flat.

Changes in the Drivers of Growth

Although growth thus far in 2016 is virtually identical to a year ago, the industries driving this growth are not. Not only has manufacturing handed the baton to construction, other industries have also significantly stepped up or pulled back. Private education and health services went from accounting for 13 percent of the region's new jobs in 2015 to 19 percent in 2016. Information also stepped up, from 2 to 5 percent.

On the flip side, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector is carrying less of the weight, creating 12 percent of all new jobs compared with 19 percent a year ago. Professional and business services is also doing less heavy lifting, declining from 21 percent to 15 percent of growth.