Youth Employment in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

September 18, 2017

The number of teenagers working in Northwest Oregon has fallen by more than 40 percent since its peak in 1996, but it has increased for the past four years. The Census Bureau estimates that there were 3,700 youth from ages 14 through 18 working in Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln and Tillamook counties in 1996. By 2012 the number had fallen to about 1,500. As the economy has improved, youth have returned to the workforce. In 2016, about 2,100 youth ages 14 through 18 were working in Northwest Oregon.
Every county in Northwest Oregon showed the pattern of falling youth employment until 2012, followed by gains. Clatsop County has seen the largest percentage gain (+50%) in youth employment since 2012, and Lincoln County has had the smallest gain (+22%).

Columbia and Benton counties had the smallest shares of their youth working. About 9 percent of youth in Columbia County and 12 percent of the youth in Benton County were employed in 2016. Clatsop, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties each had 20 to 24 percent of their youth ages 14 to 18 working. There may be more opportunity for youth in tourism-related businesses in these counties, and less competition from college students. The estimates of the share of youth working in a county are flawed by the fact that population is based on county of residence and employment is based on county of work – so youth who commute in or out of a county to work are not counted correctly.

Although all age groups were hit hard by the recession, youth especially suffered. They have returned to the workforce as the labor market improved.

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