Second Quarter 2019: Jobs Increase but Median Wage Falls Slightly and a Look Back at the Construction Industry

by Erik Knoder

January 16, 2020

Oregon’s employers reported a total of 2,194,959 jobs during the second quarter of 2019. This continued an upward trend in employment that began in 2010, and was an increase of nearly 95,000 jobs over the previous quarter. The median (middle) wage of all non-federal jobs was $20.16 per hour during the second quarter, which was $0.54 per hour lower than the previous quarter. Why the drop in median wage? It was largely due to the large increase in lower-wage jobs in leisure and hospitality as those businesses increased hiring for the summer season. That part is good news for Oregon’s economy. Of more concern is a second factor; Oregon lost nearly 9,000 high-wage jobs (those paying $60.00 or more per hour) from the first to the second quarter of 2019. Manufacturing (-4,450 jobs); financial activities (-3,906 jobs); professional and business services (-2,816 jobs); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-2,374 jobs) all shed a significant number of jobs. Some high-wage jobs were added in other industries, but not enough to offset the losses.

The construction industry also shed about 700 of its highest-paying jobs, but it did add 8,070 jobs overall in the second quarter of 2019 with nearly 6,000 of them paying more than $20 per hour. Construction is an important industry in Oregon and is especially important for seasonal employment during the second and third quarters. Construction has also been an important part of Oregon’s recovery after the Great Recession. Prior to the Great Recession, during the second quarter of 2007, Oregon had 122,897 jobs in the construction industry. Employment fell by about 30 percent during the Great Recession, but by the second quarter of 2019 it had recovered and grown to 127,211 jobs. But not with the same workers.

A comparison of quarterly wage reports shows that 52 percent of construction workers who worked in the second quarter of 2007 had no wage records at all in Oregon during the second quarter of 2019. They had retired, moved out of state, or were not working for other reasons. Another 18 percent worked in different industries in Oregon by the second quarter of 2019. Only 30 percent of the original construction workers from the second quarter of 2007 were still working in construction in Oregon during the second quarter of 2019.

There are three main subsectors in construction: construction of buildings, heavy and civil engineering construction, and specialty trade contractors (such framing contractors, plumbing businesses, and drywall contractors). The share of workers that remained in construction varied by subsector. Twenty-eight percent of the workers in the construction of buildings remained from 2007 to 2019, only 25 percent of the workers in heavy and civil engineering construction remained, and 32 percent of the workers for specialty trades contractors remained.

The tables show where the construction workers in 2007 from each of the subsectors ended up in the second quarter of 2019 – except those 52 percent who had no records at all. All major industries were destinations for former construction workers, but there were some definite employment patterns. Those who remained in the overall construction industry are in bold type.
Most of the construction workers who stayed in construction remained in their original subsector, no surprise there. The second most popular choice for workers from building construction and heavy and civil engineering subsectors was another construction subsector, again that’s not a surprise. But this was not the case for workers who left the specialty trades subsector. More of them went into the professional and business services and manufacturing industries than a different construction subsector, essentially getting out of the construction industry altogether. Manufacturing and professional and business services were popular destinations for all construction workers who left their industry.
One possible surprise is the popularity of government jobs for former construction workers. State government was the number 10 destination for workers from the construction of buildings subsector, local government was the number five destination for workers formerly in heavy and civil engineering construction and also from specialty trades. Altogether about 3,400 construction workers from 2007 worked for state and local government by 2019.
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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