The Rogue Valley’s Industry with Nearly 1,000% Growth in Four Years

The Rogue Valley’s Industry with Nearly 1,000% Growth in Four Years

by Guy Tauer

February 22, 2018

Can you imagine one industry growing by 913 percent in just four years? Are we talking about the cryptocurrency Bitcoin or some other non-bank currency here? You might think so, but not at all. This meteoric growth in payroll employment occurred in the Rogue Valley’s “other crop farming” industry. There were about 70 firms in this industry in 2016, according to our Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). What are these “all other miscellaneous crop farming” firms that are causing a spike in payroll employment?

Likely, the growth is caused by the advent of the legal recreational marijuana trade in Oregon. Of course, not every job is related to the cannabis trade, as there are a few farming “other crops” that don’t include marijuana. But one might deduce that with the timing of the job gains, it is the burgeoning marijuana trade that is adding those jobs.

We are often asked what the impact of the marijuana industry is. This is a clear example of jobs that are now covered by unemployment insurance (definition of payroll employment) and counted in the above ground rather than the underground, black market economy. In the production chain, these would be considered producer jobs. Many jobs in agriculture are not covered by unemployment insurance so they wouldn’t be included in our count of businesses and employment. Specifically, “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” would be not included in our data.

Looking just at summer employment, the Rogue Valley had about 70 payroll jobs in the other miscellaneous crop farming industry in the summer of 2013. By the summer of 2017, employment totaled more than 700 in the Rogue Valley. For this example, we just averaged August and September figures since third quarter 2017 was the most recent quarter available. Employment likely rose during October as that is the peak month for harvesting and processing activities, when many “trimmigrants” are likely working to process those crops.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) – which administers and regulates the recreational marijuana program in Oregon – also maintains a published list of marijuana producers in the Rogue Valley. Some of these may be included in our list of QCEW other miscellaneous crop farming businesses, but many more are likely outside of the QCEW scope as they may not be in business yet, or be sole proprietors, or have workers who fall outside of the unemployment insurance requirements listed above. According to the OLCC, as of February 20, 2018 there were about 220 approved recreational marijuana producers in Jackson County and 130 in Josephine County, far exceeding the 70 or so businesses in our QCEW database.

Many other jobs related to the marijuana industry are found in the processing, distribution, retails sales, consultation, and support industry firms. Looking at this one narrow area – crop farming – gives some sense of the rapid growth the broader cannabis industry has had in Southern Oregon.