Oregon's Economy: Employment

sunset in the Columbia River Gorge
Sunrise from the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint showing Crown Point and the Vista House to the east in the Columbia River Gorge. (Oregon State Archives Photo)
Oregon’s labor force is over two million strong. Three out of five of the state’s working age residents are involved in the labor force. Some are currently looking for a job, many are working for themselves, and 1.9 million are employees working at the 151,000 business establishments and government entities across the state. 

Nearly every industry in Oregon was hit hard by the Great Recession. Overall job growth resumed in 2010, and all the major sectors turned the corner, adding jobs by early 2014. Total payroll employment reached 1,915,900 by May 2018, representing nearly 164,200 more jobs than when the recession began in December 2007.

Construction suffered the most losses of any sector when measured by the share of its employment lost during the recession. It was also one of the slowest to recover, having no noticeable job growth for three years after the losses stopped. Construction turned the corner and has finally regained the number of jobs lost during the recession. With a recent annual growth rate of 10%, construction is growing at five times the rate of the rest of Oregon’s economy. Construction employment totaled 106,400 as of May 2018.

Private health care and social assistance is a large and growing sector that continued to add jobs during the recession. Population growth, the aging population, and increased access to health care means there is a growing need for workers in this sector. Health care is a large contributor to Oregon’s overall job growth and is expected to add more jobs over the next 10 years than any other sector. Health care and social assistance employment totaled 259,100 as of May 2018.

Oregon’s manufacturing sector is adding jobs at a faster rate than the nation. Recent manufacturing job growth has been led by semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing, machinery manufacturing and food manufacturing.

Oregon’s high-tech sector is a crucial and dynamic piece of Oregon’s economy that spans a number of industries. Taken together, Oregon high-tech sector accounted for more than 91,000 jobs in 2016. This includes tech manufacturers such as computer and electronic product manufacturing, computer system design, architectural, engineering and related services, software publishers and other high-tech industries.

The forestry sector is another crucial piece of Oregon’s economy that supports employment in private sector industries and government agencies. The combined categories of forest sector employment totaled 61,000 jobs in 2015. Employment in the sector grew 4% in the previous two years. Forestry jobs have an outsized impact on the economies of rural counties and pay higher wages. The sector accounts for 7% of jobs in some rural counties but just 2% of jobs in urban counties. 

Agricultural employment averaged 56,800 jobs in 2017. Agricultural employment is seasonal, so the number of jobs ranged from a low of 45,500 jobs in January and reached a high of 75,500 in July.
Sportsman Cafe sign
Food service and drinking places industry tops Oregon's employment list. Shown above is a cafe sign in Oakridge. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

Oregon’s Top Ten Industries by Employment in 2017

  1. Food services and drinking places (154,600)
  2. Administrative and support services (95,900)
  3. Ambulatory health care services (90,000)
  4. Specialty trade contractors (61,200)
  5. Hospitals (58,600)
  6. Nursing and residential care facilities (50,600)
  7. Food and beverage stores (43,500)
  8. General merchandise stores (41,500)
  9. Social assistance (37,500)
  10. Computer and electronic product manufacturing (36,900)
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