Third Quarter 2019: Jobs Increase and Median Wage Rises

by Erik Knoder

April 6, 2020

Oregon’s employers reported a total of 2,238,980 jobs during the third quarter of 2019 (July, August, and September). This continued an upward trend in employment that began in 2010, and was an increase of about 44,000 jobs over the previous quarter. The median (middle) wage of all non-federal jobs was $20.37 per hour during the second quarter, which was $0.21 per hour higher than the previous quarter.

Why the rise in median wage? It was largely due to the decrease in lower-wage jobs and an increase in jobs that paid $15 to $30 per hour. Part of this shift to higher wages was probably due to the increase in Oregon’s minimum wage to $11.25 per hour for standard counties and $12.50 per hour for the Portland metro area that took effect on July 1. Even workers who make a little more than minimum wage already may see a wage increase when the minimum wage increases. Another reason was the tight labor market that prevailed during the third quarter, which is often the peak employment quarter for many seasonal industries. That part was good news for Oregon’s economy. In addition to losing some lower-wage jobs, Oregon lost nearly 1,300 higher-wage jobs (those paying $50 to $60 per hour) from the first to the second quarter of 2019. The largest drops in these higher-wage jobs came from the professional and business services industry and from local government. Local government includes schools, which often cut back on staff over the summer.

In addition to local government, which lost a total of 11,276 jobs, some other industries had large employment changes in the third quarter. Natural resources (including agriculture) and mining (+25,460 jobs), leisure and hospitality (+8,718 jobs), and construction (+5,328 jobs) all are noted as seasonal industries, and all had large employment gains during the third quarter.

The impact of measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will likely change the employment situation for the upcoming third quarter of 2020. July 1, 2020 will produce another increase in the minimum wage which may help to raise median wages again. The third quarter could also see the addition of seasonal jobs, but it’s likely that some of the jobs lost in response to the pandemic will not be recovered by then.

To provide better data, this analysis also filters out job records that probably contain errors. Jobs that report zero hours or more than 999 hours (about 77 hours per week) worked in a quarter and jobs that paid less than the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) are excluded. Jobs that paid more than $500 per hour and reported less than 10 hours work during the quarter are also excluded.


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