The word leisure conjures up images of bathing beauties lounging poolside sipping a blended frozen drink while soaking up the sun's golden rays. Oregon's leisure and hospitality industry includes businesses providing lodging, food services, arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Average employment in Oregon's leisure and hospitality industry was over 170,000 in 2010 and made up nearly 11 percent of the state's covered employment. Payroll for Oregon's leisure and hospitality industry in 2010 was nearly $2.8 billion. Dean Runyan Associates - a research and planning firm specializing in the travel, tourism, and recreation industry - reported that in 2009, the gross domestic product of the travel industry was $3.1 billion, making it one of the three largest export-oriented industries in rural Oregon counties along with agriculture/food processing and logging/wood products.
Oregonians and our visitors must love to eat since food services makes up the largest segment of leisure and hospitality in Oregon, with over 120,000 jobs and 70 percent of the industry's employment (Graph 1). The accommodations sector makes up 15 percent of Oregon's leisure employment with nearly 25,000 jobs. Amusements, gambling, and recreation employs nearly 20,000 workers or 11 percent of the industry's employment. The smallest segments of leisure employment are performing arts and spectator sports with over 4,200 jobs and museums, historical sites, zoos, and parks with over 2,600 jobs statewide.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, businesses with no employees also contribute significantly to Oregon's leisure and hospitality industry. In 2008, there were over 19,000 nonemployer establishments with over $460 million in sales receipts in Oregon. The arts, entertainment, and recreation sector makes up 83 percent of nonemployer establishments in the leisure industry and has 63 percent of sales. Independent artists, writers, and performers account for the largest share, generating 36 percent of sales receipts in Oregon's nonemployer leisure industry businesses. Accommodation and food service businesses are also important, making up 17 percent of nonemployer establishments and 37 percent of sales receipts.
In 2010, Oregon average employment in leisure and hospitality was the lowest it has been in the past five years (Graph 2). However, the growth in seasonal jobs in 2010 was much greater than in 2009 when the seasonal drop from the August summer high employment to December's low employment was just under 13,000 jobs. Summer sales helped return confidence to business owners resulting in an employment increase of more than 17,000 jobs (+11%) from winter lows to the industry's August peak in 2010.
Tourism thrives in the summer months when visitors flock to Oregon's many resort areas, especially the coastal counties, campgrounds, and recreational areas. Charles Kingsbaker, Director of Sales and Marketing for Central Oregon's Black Butte Ranch, confirms that like many of Oregon's other tourism businesses, about 80 to 85 percent of the resort's business occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Oregon weather is more cooperative during summer, inviting more outdoor activity from residents and visitors.
According to the Oregon Employment Department's unemployment insurance claims information, for claims where industry information is available, the leisure and hospitality industry had the fourth highest average number of claims in 2010 with 7,681. Construction, manufacturing, and retail trade led unemployment insurance claims statewide last year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide many jobs in this industry provide only part-time employment with average weekly hours estimated between 25 and 26 for workers in leisure and hospitality in 2010 versus average weekly hours between 34 and 34.3 across all private-sector industries in 2010. This prevalence of part-time employment within the industry helps explain the lower-than-average annual wages of the industry as a whole.
The leisure and hospitality industry is a high-growth industry according to the Oregon Employment Department's employment projections. It's projected to grow by 12 percent from 2008 to 2018, adding 21,500 jobs, a faster rate of growth than Oregon's all-industry projection of 9 percent.
|Top 10 Most Common Occupations in Leisure and Hospitality in Oregon|
|Job Title||2008 Average Employment||2010 Average Annual Wage|
|Combined Food Prep. & Serving Workers, Incl. Fast Food||30,317||$20,082|
|Waiters & Waitresses||27,953||$23,344|
|Counter Attendants in Cafeterias, Food Conc. & Coffee Shops||8,506||$20,542|
|Supervisors/Managers of Food Prep. & Serving Workers||7,655||$32,771|
|Maids & Housekeeping Cleaners||6,814||$21,360|
|Cooks, Fast Food||6,099||$19,871|
|Food Preparation Workers||4,516||$22,080|
Only 12 percent of Oregon's leisure workers are age 55 or over. Physical demands of the work could explain the drop in employment as staff age along the continuum. Many service workers must be able to remain on their feet throughout their shifts, waiting on customers, bussing tables, doing food preparation or cooking, washing dishes, or cleaning hotel rooms.
The year wasn't all doom and gloom, however. Astoria's luxury Cannery Pier Hotel had the best year ever in 2010, according to owner Don West. "We had a 20 percent increase in business from Canada due to the exchange rate," said West, "but many of our guests come from the Portland Metro area, Eugene, Seattle, Vancouver, and as far away as South Africa." Some lodging facilities, in uncertain times, reduce guest services to cut costs. According to Don, this can put a business into a "death spiral" when guests leave unsatisfied, tell their friends and associates, and it results in a lower occupancy rate at the business. But the Cannery Pier Hotel's philosophy is to "Do more, and ask for less. You have to value that client even more in down times," says Don, and "keep them coming back."
Average employment in this sector, like others, peaked in 2008 at 23,200 statewide then dropped by 8 percent to 21,300 in 2010. So far in 2011, each month's employment has surpassed year-ago figures; a good sign. Employment within the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector fluctuates between 15 and 20 percent seasonally, adding from 3,000 to 4,000 jobs from winter lows to summer peaks.
Three out of four (19,680 jobs) in this sector are in the amusements, gambling, and recreation industry which has the lowest average annual wage of $16,983 annually. Performing arts and spectator sports has the highest average wage of the three components paying an average of $50,219 in 2010.
Steve Gibons, owner and operator of Scappoose Bay Kayaking, indicated that business in 2010 was up over 2009. The company offers guided kayak tours, rentals, and sales of outdoor gear and supplies. Many of the kayaking business's customers are relatively local, from within a 100 to 150 mile radius of Scappoose Bay, or they are visitors of locals. In the retail shop, sales started picking up in late 2010 but the mix of products purchased has changed during this downturn. Customers are looking at more affordable kayaks, instead of the higher quality lines. The season really hasn't begun yet for 2011, with an extremely rainy spring, but Gibons is optimistic that this summer will be even better than last.