The Share of Hispanic or Latino Employment Is Growing in Central Oregon

by Kale Donnelly

September 6, 2019

Oregon’s employment and population growth have seen sizable gains over the years, sometimes even making headlines as each measure outperformed the nation. But, how has the Hispanic or Latino ethnic group’s employment and population growth tracked in comparison? Faster – much faster.

With respect to Central Oregon, Hispanic or Latino employment has increased substantially in the last 25 years, especially in Deschutes and Jefferson counties. Both counties tell a different story in the way employment levels for this ethnic group have grown. Jefferson County posted the largest percentage point increase in its annual average Hispanic/Latino employment levels from 11 percent in 1993 to 20 percent in 2018 – a 9 percentage point increase. As of 2018, one out of every five jobs in Jefferson County is held by someone of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. While Deschutes County only posted a 6 percentage point increase in its Hispanic/Latino employment, the county experienced the greatest relative increase during those 25 years – roughly 600 percent from its 1993 annual average employment levels. For reference, total nonfarm employment in Deschutes County grew just over 130 percent in the same timeframe, the greatest employment increase in the region by far.
One potential explanation for the increasing share of Hispanic/Latino employment could be the lower median age of the population. If an area has a greater amount of retirees its labor force participation rate (LFPR) will typically be lower than another area with a greater concentration of prime-aged working individuals (25 to 54 years old). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic/Latino population has a significantly higher LFPR than their White Alone, Not Hispanic or Latino counterparts in Oregon, as well as all three of Central Oregon’s counties.

The LFPR is calculated by taking the number of employed individuals divided by the civilian non-institutionalized population (everyone 16 years or older minus those in institutions such as correctional facilities and assisted living homes, as well as active duty military members). Central Oregon’s counties all have higher labor force participation rates amongst Hispanic/Latino individuals, and it most likely has to do with the difference in median age between the two populations.
With the Hispanic/Latino population showing a significantly younger median age than their non-Hispanic counterparts, their LFPR is significantly higher. So the old adage is true – demographics are destiny – especially when it comes to determining the LFPR of an area. This difference in median age offers a potential explanation as to how strong population growth was accompanied by an increasing share of employment amongst this ethnic group in Central Oregon. As the Hispanic/Latino population grows and has a greater propensity to seek and find work than the greying White Alone population, their share of employment will tend to increase.

When looking at statewide trends we see that both employment and population growth for Hispanics/Latinos has outpaced the state’s total growth rates since 2010. Annual growth in Oregon’s Hispanic/Latino population has outpaced the total population’s growth anywhere from 0.5 percentage points to 2.3 percentage points. The most notable difference between growth rates lies with employment levels. Hispanic/Latinos outpaced the state’s total employment growth rates by a range of 2.2 percentage points to 5.4 percentage points since 2010.
Every citizen and worker plays a pivotal role in the performance of their communities and their local economies. Non-Hispanic individuals have posted positive employment and population growth rates over the years. It just so happens that a significantly younger median age of the Hispanic/Latino population in both Oregon and Central Oregon is an influential factor in their higher labor force participation rates and growing share of total nonfarm employment.

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