Youth Employment in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

October 1, 2018

The number of teenagers working in Northwest Oregon has fallen by more than 40 percent since its peak in 1996, but it increased by nearly 700 from 2012 to 2017. The Census Bureau estimates that there were 3,715 youth ages 14 through 18 working in Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties in 1996. By 2012 the number had fallen to 1,507. As the economy has improved, youth have returned to the workforce. In 2017, 2,204 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. Columbia County has seen the largest percentage gain (+61%) in youth employment since 2012, and Lincoln County has had the smallest gain (+31%).

Aside from the raw number of youth workers, it would be good to know the share of the youth population that works in each county. It isn’t possible to know if the youth working in a county reside within the county or in another county since commuting data are not available by age, but it is unlikely that many people ages 14 to 18 are commuting to jobs out of their county. It is possible to compare the size of youth workforce in a county to their total population in a county, and if there is negligible commuting then this would be close to an employment-to-population ratio. Columbia and Benton counties had the smallest working-youth-to-population ratio in 2017 at 10 percent. Clatsop County’s working-youth-to-population ratio was the highest at 25 percent. Lincoln and Tillamook counties each had a 21 percent working-youth-to-population ratio.

Why is there a difference between the counties? There may be more opportunity for youth in tourism-related businesses in the coastal counties, and less competition from older college students. Leisure and hospitality and retail provide about 40 percent of all payroll jobs in Lincoln and Clatsop counties and 27 percent of payroll jobs in Tillamook County. Tillamook County also has an unusually high percentage (19%) of its youth working in manufacturing, and the county happens to be the home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Although all age groups were hit hard by the recession, youth employment especially suffered. Youth have returned to the workforce as the labor market improved, and their return seems to be strongly influenced by having jobs available to them.

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