Long-Term Projections Show Broad-Based Job Opportunities in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

May 11, 2023

Northwest Oregon is expected to add 12,540 jobs between 2021 and 2031, according to new projections from the Oregon Employment Department for Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties. This represents a 12% increase in employment over 10 years. The anticipated growth stems from private-sector gains of 12,270 jobs (13% growth) and the addition of 1,070 jobs (5% growth) in government. The growth rate is due to both the expected recovery of the some jobs lost in 2020 from the Pandemic Recession and from the usual growth associated with our expanding economy and population.

Northwest Oregon had 100,830 jobs in 2021, down from 112,180 in 2019. This included an estimated 5,950 jobs from self-employment. The recovery of jobs lost and anticipated industry growth is expected to push the region’s job count to 113,370 in 2031. The first chart shows employment by major sector in 2021.
Graph showing Northwest Oregon employment, 2021

Government generated 19% of the jobs in Northwest Oregon in 2021. This share is helped considerably by the presence of Oregon State University, which contributed nearly 70% of the 16,850 local government jobs in the region. Other large industries in Northwest Oregon in 2021 were trade, transportation, and utilities with 15,320 jobs; leisure and hospitality with 14,890 jobs; and private educational and health services with 13,250 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, which often serves as a proxy for the important tourism trade in the region, lost nearly 4,000 jobs on an annual average basis due to the pandemic recession. In the past it has typically been the largest private-sector industry when measured by employment.

In addition to the 12,540 jobs we expect from recovery and economic growth, an additional 114,938 job openings will be created by 2031 as workers change occupations or leave for other reasons, such as retirement. This total number is important when considering the capacity of job training and educational programs a region will need to offer in order to have a skilled workforce. Altogether, Northwest Oregon will need nearly 127,500 trained workers over the 10 years to accommodate the region’s growth and replacement of existing workers.

The 2021 to 2031 employment projections bring together several trends: expansion after the pandemic recession, especially in leisure and hospitality; an ever-growing health care sector, due in part to an aging population; ongoing business-services specialization; and continuing baby boomer retirements. Other trends point to slower growth or even declines: brick-and-mortar retail trade has shed jobs in places due to sales shifting online, local newspapers in the information industry have cut jobs as news and advertising moved online, forest products jobs continue to compete with increasing automation, and government jobs are constrained by funding. Perhaps the biggest unknown is what will be the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 and changing demographics as baby boomers retire. The Employment Department’s 2021-2031 employment projections are long-term projections intended to capture growth and structural change in the economy. As such, they assume some industries will experience moderate long-term impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, but not ongoing waves of COVID-19 itself.

Industry Projections

Growth is expected in all of the broad industry groups through 2031, except for the federal government. We expect essentially no change in federal government employment based on past trends.

The region’s leisure and hospitality sector – which consists of accommodation (lodging), food services, and entertainment firms – is projected to add the most jobs (+4,600) by far and to be the fastest growing sector (+31%). The sector also lost the most jobs during the pandemic recession, so most of the projected jobs are just for the industry to recover. These 10-year projections assume that customers will return and the industry will find a way to grow as it has historically.
Graph showing projected change in employment in Northwest Oregon, 2021-2031

Private educational and health services was also affected by the pandemic recession and lost some jobs. Schools and daycare centers shifted to online teaching and cut staff; many medical providers were closed at least temporarily, and services were curtailed by others. Over the 10 years it is expected to continue its growth in the region, state, and nation. The industry is expected to add 2,120 jobs even though it is currently only the third-largest sector in the region. Demographic change, an influx of retirees, and medical advances drive growth in the industry.

Professional and business services is projected to add 1,370 jobs and to be one of the faster growing industries through 2031, growing by 18%. Much of the growth is driven by financial and operational specialization. Firms increasingly use holding companies and corporate offices that are distinct from their operations. They also rely more on contracting out ancillary services, such as cleaning and groundskeeping.

Trade, transportation, and utilities was also hit hard by the pandemic, especially its retail trade portion. Online sales present a challenge for local retailers, but this also provides a boost for delivery services in the transportation part of the sector. The entire sector is expected to add 1,310 jobs over the 10 years.

Local government is the largest “industry” (it’s actually an ownership) in Northwest Oregon, but it will be one of the region’s slower growing industries at only 6% over 10 years and add 1,010 jobs. An important change for counting the region’s employment is that Oregon State University’s employment changed to being counted in local government education in 2016 instead of state government.

A few detailed industries will probably lose employment. We expect a continued loss of jobs in the mining and logging industry and in wood product manufacturing due to ongoing improvements in labor-saving technology and mill modernization. This has been the trend for the past couple decades. This same process accounts for expected job losses in paper manufacturing. Another risk for paper and wood product manufacturing is the closure of an entire mill. During the Great Recession Oregon lost several paper and wood product mills with little warning to the nearby communities. A paper mill in the region recently announced that it would close, but it is currently unknown if the closure will be permanent or if another operator can be found.

Occupational Projections

Between 2021 and 2031 there will be job openings in most occupations in Northwest Oregon. In addition to the 12,523 occupational openings from new or expanding businesses, Northwest Oregon employers will also need sufficiently trained workers for 114,938 openings due to the need to replace those leaving their occupations. Replacement openings will make up a majority of total job openings in all major occupational groups and usually far outnumber the openings due to growth. (The 12,523 occupational openings due to growth differs from the 12,540 industry job growth due to rounding.)

These occupational projections make clear that Northwest Oregon has a service dominated economy. Service is usually the largest major group of occupations, and this group is expected to have 44,516 total openings (growth plus replacement) from 2021 to 2031. In part this reflects growth of 23% over the 10 years, and in part it reflects high occupational turnover. Service occupations – which include jobs as varied as emergency services, pest control workers, and fast food cooks – often pay lower wages and require lower levels of education.

Other large major occupational groups are management, professional and related occupations, with 28,892 total openings, and sales and office occupations, with 25,887 total openings. Management, professional and related occupations, which include executives, web developers, engineers, and lawyers, tend to pay higher wages and require higher levels of education. The largest single occupation in sales and office occupations is retail salesperson. It tends to be a fairly low-paying occupation and has a large occupational turnover.

A slightly more detailed view is to look at the 22 broad occupational groups. Food preparation and serving occupations (+27%), and buildings and grounds cleaning and maintenance (+23%) are the two fastest-growing broad occupational groups. However, the latter is not a large group so it is expected to have only 7,448 total openings. Nearly three-quarters of the broad occupational groups are expected to have double-digit growth over the ten years.

The five specific occupations with the most total openings forecast over the next 10 years are fast food and counter workers, cashiers, retail salespersons, waiters and waitresses, and maids and housekeeping cleaners. These are all large occupations now, and they will all experience at least some openings due to economic growth and many more due to the retirement or other departure of existing workers. Office clerks, educational and library workers, and food preparation workers are expected to add the fewest positions due to just economic growth out of the top fifteen occupations.
Table showing occupational employment projections for Northwest (Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook Counties), 2021-2031

The top five fastest-growing specific occupations with 100 or more openings are expected to be preschool teachers (+64%), restaurant cooks (+50%), childcare workers (+40%), massage therapists (+38%), and medical and health service managers (+33%). Most of the occupations with many openings and faster growth don’t require a four-year college degree, but they often don’t pay well either. It is still true that most higher-paying occupations require at least some college, post-secondary training, or an apprenticeship. About two-thirds of the occupations will require some sort of education beyond high school in order for candidates to be really competitive in the hiring process.

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