Salem MSA: The Year in Review 2023

by Pat O'Connor

March 14, 2024

The Salem MSA (Marion and Polk counties) continued to recover and add jobs following the Pandemic Recession in the spring of 2020. In 2021 Salem’s total nonfarm employment grew 3.1%, bouncing back from the pandemic. Employment growth was even stronger in 2022. The Salem MSA’s total nonfarm employment grew 3.5%, adding 5,900 jobs. Employment continued to expand in Salem in 2023, but not as fast as in 2022. Salem’s employment grew 2.8% in 2023, adding 4,900 jobs.  
Graph showing Salem MSA Total Nonfarm Employment: Annual Percent Change

Salem MSA Labor Force

Similar to the U.S. and Oregon, The Salem MSA found itself in a tight labor market during 2023. The year started with Salem’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 4.7% in January 2023. The unemployment rate hit an all-time low during the summer when the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%. Salem’s unemployment rate ended the year at 3.8% in December 2023. An unemployment rate of less than 4% is rare for the Salem MSA. Since 1990, Salem’s unemployment rate has been below 4% for just 18 months during that
34-year period.  

Salem’s civilian labor force was essentially flat during 2023, down a little more than 300 people (-0.2%) since 2022.
Total Nonfarm Employment            

On an annual average basis, Oregon’s payroll employment gained 33,700 jobs or 1.7% in 2023. That compares with a gain of 69,200 jobs or 3.7% growth in 2022.

Salem’s job growth in 2023 outpaced Oregon’s growth; Salem added 4,900 jobs or 2.8% in 2023. In 2022, Salem’s employment growth was slightly slower than the statewide growth rate, adding 5,900 jobs to expand 3.5%.

Salem’s private education and health services sector showed the largest employment gains in 2023, adding 2,300 jobs (+7.3%).

Professional and business services recorded strong employment growth in 2023, adding 900 jobs (+5.5%).

Salem’s leisure and hospitality sector added 500 jobs (+3.2%) in 2023. The sector’s employment is now above its pre-pandemic peak employment level in 2019.  

Retail trade in Salem showed the largest employment decline in 2023, it shed 400 jobs, declining 2.1%.

The Salem MSA’s public-sector employment level was up 1,300 jobs or 3.0%. The job gains were seen in both state and local government.          

Benchmarking Process

The newly revised payroll employment numbers are the result of the annual benchmarking process. This revision process is conducted by the Oregon Employment Department staff in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment numbers for both 2022 and 2023 are revised. For the monthly data through September 2023, original survey-based estimates were replaced with universe employment counts from the Unemployment Insurance tax system. Numbers from October through December 2023 were then re-estimated using sample employment data from a survey of businesses.

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