Wage and Job Growth Across Many Industries

by Molly Hendrickson

March 7, 2024

Oregon had 1.98 million people working in jobs covered by the state’s unemployment insurance system during the first quarter of 2023. This was an increase of 21,700, or 1.1%, from the same quarter of the previous year. They earned a total of $33.4 billion, with an average wage of about $16,800 per worker for the quarter. The median hourly wage during the quarter was $26.52.

Wage Growth in Several Industries Despite Inflation

Oregon employers reported over 2.1 million jobs during the first quarter of 2023. The vast majority of Oregonians (90.1%) held one job during the quarter. Approximately 8.8% of workers in the first quarter of 2023 held two jobs, 1.0% of workers held three jobs, and 0.2% of workers held four or more jobs. This looks similar to a year before in the first quarter of 2022.

Meanwhile, the median wage increased by $0.07 over the year, after being adjusted for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). Strong inflation over the past few years has translated to fewer industry wages keeping up in their real purchasing power.

Eight industries had real wage gains, meaning that the median wage increased more than inflation: information, construction, professional and business services, manufacturing, wholesale trade, other services, leisure and hospitality, and state government. Professional and business services had the largest real gain in median wage percentage growth from first quarter 2022 to first quarter 2023 (2.0%). However, a handful of industries had decreases in real median wage. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities jobs had the biggest decrease in both real percentage change (-3.0%) and the real dollar value decrease (-$0.84).
Table showing Real Change in Median Hourly Wage by Broad Industry

Median Wages and Share of Jobs

It comes as no surprise that firms with at least 500 employees have the greatest number of jobs. Jobs in firms with 500 or more employees make up 34% of all jobs. Firms with 20 to 49 employees and firms with 100 to 249 employees rank second in size, making up 13% of all jobs each.

Generally speaking, larger employers tend to pay higher wages. Firms with 500 or more employees had a median wage of $31.08 – more than $4 higher than the next highest median wage ($26.59). As firm size class increased, median wage decreased, up to firms with five to nine employees, after which it began increasing, albeit slowly. The median wage for firms with five to nine employees ($23.73) and 10 to 19 employees ($23.75) were almost identical. Firms with less than five employees had a median wage ($25.22) very similar to firms with 50 to 99 employees ($25.09). Overall, firms with at least 20 employees but less than 500 employees paid a median wage between about $24 and $27. The substantial jump in median wage occurred between firms with 250 to 499 employees and firms with 500 or more employees.

When looking at real median wage growth (which accounts for inflation) by firm employment size class, all firm sizes except for those with 100 to 249 employees had positive wage growth. Firms with 100 to 249 employees had a decrease of 1.0% in real wages from the first quarter of 2022 to first quarter 2023. Firms with five to nine employees had the largest real median wage gain with a 2.3% increase from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023.

Graph showing Share of Jobs and Median Wage by Employer Firm Size in Oregon, First Quarter 2023

Most Industries Added Jobs in First Quarter 2023

Of the 18,900 jobs gained between first quarter 2022 and first quarter 2023, health care and social assistance gained the most jobs (20,000), while state government had the largest percentage change (19.4%). The largest decrease in both numerical change and percentage change occurred in retail trade (-18,800; -7.6%).

Instead of looking at the raw numerical change, it can sometimes be more helpful to look at the percentage change in jobs. Some industries are larger than others by nature, and large increases or decreases, though they account for many jobs, are a small percentage when compared with the size of the industry. For example, local government lost about 2,500 jobs between first quarter 2022 and first quarter 2023. This constituted a 1.2% decrease. For comparison’s sake, financial activities decreased by 1.1%, which was a loss of about 1,000 jobs.

It is also interesting to look at the composition of industries in the economy. As different industries experience fluctuations, the number of jobs can increase or decrease enough that the share of jobs for a particular industry increases or decreases within the economy. Generally speaking, adding jobs can lead to a larger share in the economy, while losing jobs can decrease an industry’s share of jobs – though there are exceptions. From the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, the share of jobs in health care and social assistance increased from making up 14.0% of all jobs to 14.8%. Leisure and hospitality, state government, construction, other services, and private educational services also increased in their share of all jobs. Information, manufacturing, and wholesale trade each added jobs from first quarter 2022 to first quarter 2023 and did not change in their share of all jobs.

Table showing Change in Number of Jobs by Broad Industry

Looking at the industries that gained jobs between first quarter 2022 and first quarter 2023, three industries made up the majority of those gains. Health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, and state government made up 79% of the job growth. Each of those three industries gained more than 8,000, while the rest gained less than 3,000.

Note that non-classifiable jobs were excluded from much of this analysis. The individuals under non-classifiable work for employers who have not yet been assigned an industry code, so it really isn’t a “sector.” Those employees will start to show up under other industries in future quarters as we are able to determine the correct code. The wage change over time for this group is meaningless, because the employers – and their employees – included here change each quarter.

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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