Job growth in Portland Metro was steady throughout summer of 2021. By August, concern over the COVID-19 Delta Variant caused employment to plateau.
While employment has not reached the pre-pandemic peak, Portland Metro added 16,400 jobs between June 2020 and June 2021. The September 2021 unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in the past seventeen months.
The growth was not uniform across all economic sectors. Manufacturing employs ten percent of all workers in Portland Metro and represents nine percent of all initial unemployment claims since the beginning of the economic crisis. During that period, more than 95,500 initial unemployment claims have been filed by Manufacturing workers in Oregon, including 23,800 in Portland Metro. (Table 1) This represents twenty-seven percent of the 2019 workforce.
In September 2021, there were 7,400 fewer Manufacturing jobs in the Portland MSA than there had been in September 2019. (Table 2) Job losses were spread throughout the industry. Of the four hundred eleven occupations included in Manufacturing, two hundred and fifty-five employed fewer workers in 2021 than in 2019. Two of largest occupations, Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical Assemblers, Except Coil Winders, Tapers, and Finishers and Miscellaneous Assemblers and Fabricators experienced losses of three percent, and eleven percent, respectively. The largest occupation, Semiconductor Processing Technicians grew by ten percent. (Table 3)
There are some positive signs. Employment in this sector rose in the early months of 2021 and then dipped in April 2021. Growth in the semiconductor industry is expected to grow. More than a year after the pandemic began, demand for workers has returned. Between August and September, job postings for the top ten Manufacturing occupations were up between fifteen and two hundred forty-eight percent from the same period during the previous year. (Table 4)
With 84,101 jobs and a payroll of $10 billion (2019), Manufacturing accounts for 10% of Portland Metro’s private-sector employment and twelve percent of payroll. Annual wages averaged $111,300, 65% more than the average across all industries.
Exports are critical to the region’s economy. According to the Brookings Institution, total exports directly supported more than 76,700 jobs in the greater Portland metropolitan area (2017). Advanced Manufacturing accounted for the vast majority of the metropolitan area’s exports; at 80 percent, it’s the largest share among the nation’s major metro areas. Local exports are dominated by computer equipment.
Portland Metro has a competitive advantage in Advanced Manufacturing in that employment is more concentrated in the region (10% of total employment) compared to the nation (7.5%). Employment in the high-tech manufacturing component is more than three times as concentrated due largely to Intel’s operations in Washington County.
In 2021, nearly 84,100 people in Multnomah and Washington Counties were employed in Manufacturing. The sector includes more than 400 occupations. Forty-eight of them employ more than 500 people. (Table 4)
Manufacturing includes many middle-wage occupations. Slightly more than half of jobs in manufacturing have median wages at or above the area’s median wage ($45,300). Less than 1% of Manufacturing jobs in Portland Metro were in the tenth percentile with a median wage of less than $12.37/hr. (Table 5)
More than sixty two percent of occupations (31% of jobs) in Manufacturing do not require formal education beyond a high school diploma. A handful of occupations (8%) require a post-secondary credential or an associate degree. Nearly a third of manufacturing occupations (29%) require a bachelor’s degree or more. (Table 6)
Workers in this sector tend to be slightly older than the total workforce. In 2019, nearly half of Manufacturing workers were 45 years old or older, compared to 41% of all workers in Portland Metro. (Table 7) Roughly three quarters (72%) of Manufacturing workers in Portland Metro are male.
White workers are overrepresented in this sector. They are sixty-five percent of all workers and seventy-four percent of manufacturing workers. (Table 8)
Advanced Manufacturing is a cyclical industry, locally and nationally. It was hit hard by the recession, shedding 8,500 jobs by 2009, or thirteen percent of its employment base. Prior to COVID-19, Portland Metro’s Advanced Manufacturing sector was expected to expand by 4,000 jobs between 2017 and 2027 for a growth rate of six percent; slower than the overall economy.