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Deciphering Oregon’s Tight Labor Market

We know the economy is beginning to run into capacity constraints. The biggest issue today facing Oregon firms is the ability to attract and retain workers. The labor market is getting tighter for two primary reasons: a strong economy, and demographics as retirements increase. These factors are seen across the entire economy, not in an industry or two. Overall this results in slowing statewide job growth as the economy transitions down to more sustainable rates. 

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Employment in Oregon: July 2018

Lowest on Record: Oregon Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.9 Percent in July Oregon’s unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in July, which was Oregon’s lowest unemployment rate since comparable records began in 1976. Oregon’s June unemployment rate was 4.0 percent. The U.S....

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Oregon’s Food Economy

Oregon’s food economy overall employs nearly 290,000 workers, or 15% of the state workforce. It accounts for 4-5% of state GDP in recent years. One-third of these workers — nearly 100,000 — are in the production, processing, and distribution segments of the food economy.

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Oregon’s High-Tech Outlook

The biggest high-tech takeaway from an industrial structure point of view is that Oregon’s historical strengths are not expected to lead growth moving forward. Oregon’s high-tech legacy and our regional economy’s comparative advantage lies in hardware manufacturing, with semiconductors being the most prominent.

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Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast, June 2018

Oregon’s industrial structure is very similar to the U.S. overall, even moreso than nearly all other states. That said, Oregon’s manufacturing industry is larger and weighted toward semiconductors and wood products, relative to the nation which is much more concentrated in transportation equipment (autos and aerospace). However, these industries which have been Oregon’s strength in both the recent past and historically, are now expected to grow the slowest moving forward. Productivity and output from the state’s technology producers is expected to continue growing quickly, however employment is not likely to follow suit.

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Oregon Beer Production, 2018 (Graph of the Week)

It turns out that not every week is craft beer week. Who knew? But this week, it actually is. So in honor of our value-added manufacturing, declining start-up trend bucking, homegrown Oregon breweries out there, I thought I should update our numbers of Oregon beer production. These figures come from the OLCC beer reports which only cover beer made in Oregon and sold in Oregon. So beer imported into the state from other breweries, and beer made here but exported to other states or countries are not included in these numbers. It also includes all Oregon breweries, regardless of ownership or brewing techniques. The goal here is not to get bogged down into defining what craft beer is. Rather it’s to look at Oregon beer production.

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Economic Headwinds and Tailwinds

This morning I have the privilege of being a part of Portland State’s Northwest Economic Research Center‘s forecast breakfast. NERC, of course, is headed by Tom Potiowsky who used to oversee our office as the state economist for much of the 2000s. In recent years, Tom and his team have created regional economic forecasts in addition to other research and consulting work.

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Downskilling in a Tight Labor Market

In a tight labor market, bargaining power shifts back toward workers to some degree. Businesses have a harder time attracting and retaining workers. Wages are bid up and firms need to dig deeper into the resume stack to hire candidates they previously passed over. Workers themselves feel more confident in their prospects and more likely to quit or switch jobs. All of the above is happening more today and one item I am trying to track is whether or not firms are downskilling their positions in order to fill them.

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