Oregon Christmas Trees Create Jobs During the Holiday Season

by Brian Rooney

December 13, 2018

‘Tis the season when Oregonians will brave stores crowded with shoppers, bake cookies, and buy or cut a Christmas tree grown in their home state. In fact, across the nation, people will be purchasing a tree grown in Oregon, helping to create jobs.

Oregon is the number one Christmas tree producing state in the nation, according to data from the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, with roughly $90 million in wholesale sales and 5.2 million trees harvested in 2016. Most of the harvested trees are either Douglas fir (32%) or Noble fir (54%). This year, the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, an 82-foot-tall noble fir, came from Oregon’s Willamette National Forest.

About 92 percent of northwest Christmas trees were exported out of the region with 45 percent headed to California and 16 percent headed to Mexico. The balance were sent to other regions of the U.S.

Employment

A lot goes into getting Oregon Christmas trees to market as fresh and green as possible. It starts with wholesale sales, then a tight harvest window, and then transportation to market. However, counting employment in Oregon’s Christmas tree industry is difficult since production and selling are included in several broad industries with other commodities including the following:

  • Nursery and tree production – comprises companies engaged in nursery stock, shrubbery, bulbs, and woody trees with a growth and harvest cycle of 10 years.
  • Other miscellaneous nondurable goods merchant wholesalers – comprises companies involved in merchant wholesale distribution of everything from pet supplies to textile bags to statuary (non-religious).
  • Other direct selling establishments – comprises establishments engaged in nonstore retail sales by means such as in-house sales, truck or wagon sales, and portable stalls.
It is likely that Christmas tree growing creates the most jobs in this industry, especially during the harvest, which occurs just before the holidays. Since Christmas tree growers are required to have a license from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, we can get a rough idea of the magnitude of the industry. There are 382 licensed Christmas tree growers in Oregon cultivating 42,000 acres.

We can get an estimate of payroll, or “covered” employment by matching company names from licenses with records from the Oregon Employment Department’s Unemployment Insurance program. There were 42 matches.

In 2017, covered employment grew into the spring and summer and then spiked with the harvest in November at roughly 1,300 workers. Annual average employment was 469 and annual average pay was $32,969.
Obviously, many growers are sole proprietors or family farms that have little or no payroll employment and are not required to report to the UI program. Many of the growers tend the trees and then hire temporary workers for harvest or contract out the harvest. With more than 300 growers not included in the covered employment estimate, it is likely that hundreds, if not thousands, more are employed during the harvest on a contract or temporary worker basis.

So while you are decorating your tree, baking cookies or enjoying a hot toddy this holiday season, remember the thousands of workers that hustle to get that Oregon Christmas tree to you as fresh and green as possible.

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