13 November 2013 by Published in: Opinion No comments yet



Columbia County Jobs “Jeopardy”

Editorial Comments

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Shawna Sykes, a workforce analyst for the Oregon Employment Department office in St. Helens, who regularly keeps local leaders and the press informed about Northwest Oregon economic indicators and labor trends, gave an interesting, engaging program at the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce meeting last week.

Shawna presented information about employment and unemployment, industry facts and trends, and demographics in the format of the TV game show “Jeopardy.”

The fun factor of the game is not easily translated into a newspaper column, but we think the facts are worth sharing.

• The 2012 annual unemployment rate for Columbia County was 9.5 percent, compared to 8.7 percent in Oregon statewide, and 8.1 percent in the United States. Our neighboring Clatsop County, in contrast, has an unemployment rate of about 6.2 percent.

• Approximately 171,000 Oregonians were considered unemployed in 2012. To be counted as unemployed, an individual must be available for work and have taken some specific steps to obtain a job within the prior month. It doesn’t depend on receiving unemployment benefits.

• Under that definition, about 2,300 individuals were unemployed in Columbia County in 2012.

• About 27 percent of Columbia County’s workers work in this county.

That means that about 73 percent of working Columbia County residents commute outside the county to their jobs. That fact has huge implications for “social capital,” the number of vital, productive people who are available to become involved in their communities. It also has a major impact on local governments which depend on property tax valuation. Industrial valuation is much higher than residential valuation, which is generally considered to not pay for itself in terms of the public services required.

• Where do the roughly 73 percent of Columbia County’s workers who work outside the county go to work? 28.8 percent in Multnomah County (thus accounting, at least in part, for the population growth in the south Columbia County area as opposed to very little growth in north county); 17.2 percent of Columbia County residents work in Washington County, 5.9 percent in Clackamas County, 5.3 percent in Cowlitz County, 3.2 percent in Marion County, 2.8 percent in Clatsop County (despite the large percentage of Clatskanie area residents who work at the Wauna Mill), 2.7 percent in Clark County, 1.2 percent in Lane County, 1.1 percent in Linn County, and 4.9 percent in all other locations.

• What job considered to be “high-wage” is projected to have the most openings within Northwest Oregon between 2010 to 2020? Truck driver.

High wage is defined as greater than the region’s median wage in 2011 of $15.20 per hour. In 2011, truck drivers made a median wage of $17.82 per hour.

Other “high-wage, high-demand occupations” in order of the projected openings, listed with their median wages, include registered nurses ($36.22), bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks ($15.53), general and operations managers, supervisors and managers of retail sales workers ($16.05), maintenance and repair workers, secretaries except legal, medical and executive ($15.69), carpenters  ($19.43), supervisors and managers of food preparation and serving workers ($16.40), supervisors and managers of office and administrative support workers ($19.67), elementary school teachers, except special education ($52,433 per year), packaging and filling machine operators and tenders ($15.31), logging equipment operators ($20.81), secondary school teachers, except special and vocational education ($46,870), accountants and auditors ($26.27), fork lift, industrial truck and tractor operators ($17.54), police and sheriff’s patrol officers ($25.94), welders, cutters, solderers and brazers ($17.32), electricians ($32.03), customer service representatives ($17.96).

• Columbia County hasn’t added a significant amount of jobs in the past three years.

Annual non-farm employent in Columbia County peaked in 2008 at 10,870 jobs then fell from 2009 through 2011. About 50 jobs were added in 2011-2012, but 2012’s level was only 9,630 – 1,240 fewer jobs in this county than four years before.

•  According to 2012 statistics, what industry employs the most people in Columbia County? Government, at 21 percent, followed by trade, transportation and utilities at 20 percent, manufacturing, 14 percent; educational and health service, 11 percent, leisure and hospitality, 11 percent; professional and business services, six percent; financial activities, five percent; construction, five percent; other services, four percent; mining and logging, two percent; information, one percent.

• In the 10-year period between 2002-2012, what industry sector added the largest number of jobs (250, a growth rate of 30 percent)? Educational and health services.

Other industries adding jobs were professional and business services with 130 new jobs in 10 years, “other services” with 100 new jobs; financial activities, 70 new jobs; construction, 40; leisure and hospitality, 40.

Industry sectors losing jobs in the past 10 years were: manufacturing, minus 570; mining and logging, minus 170; trade, transportation and utilities, minus 110; government, minus 40, and information, minus 20.

• What industry had the highest average wage in 2012 in Columbia County? Manufacturing, the same one which lost 570 jobs in the past 10 years, at $49,709, followed by government, $40,260; construction, $40,115; information, $39,543; natural resources and mining, $36,595; financial activities $36,433; trade, transportation and utilities, $31,778; professional and business services, $29,951; education and health services, $28,333; other services, $16,537, and leisure and hospitality, $13,574.

Frequently, at public hearings regarding proposed industrial developments we have heard opponents suggest the promotion of tourism as an alternative to manufacturing jobs. Please take note that tourism jobs (leisure and hospitality) do not – for the most part – offer high enough pay to support a family.

• Over the past year, the industry sector which has lost the largest number of jobs in Columbia County, by far, is government – a total of 70 jobs lost since August of 2012.

Over the past year, the sectors of other services, education and health services, financial activities, information, manufactuing, mining and logging, each lost 10 jobs.

Industry sectors gaining jobs were trade, transportation and utilities, with 60 new jobs; construction, 30; professional and business services, 30; leisure and hospitality, 10.

• What city in Columbia County had the largest percentage of self-employment (not incorporated businesses)? Vernonia and Columbia City both had 7.3 percent self-employed, followed by Scappoose, 6.3 percent; Rainier, 6.2 percent, Columbia City, 4.1 percent, St. Helens, 3.8 percent, and Clatskanie, just 2.9 percent, compared to the state average of 8.3 percent.

One should take into account, however, that many small family businesses are incorporated, so they would not fall into this category.

Which Northwest Oregon county’s per capital personal income was below the state average of $37,527? The answer is all three Northwest Oregon counties (Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook). Columbia’s average per capita income is $33,907, 18th in the state; Clatsop, $35,021, 10th; Tillamook, $34,194, 15th.

Columbia County has a higher percentage of residents in this age group than the state as a whole. Would that be: a) 19 and under, b) 20 to 34 years old, c) 35 to 54 years old, or d) 55 to 74 years old?

You guessed it – the old folks rule. Columbia County has a smaller percentage of residents 20 to 34 years old (16 percent) and a slightly higher percentage of residents 55 to 74 years old (24 percent of the population, plus another six percent over 75).

Population-wise, in the period between the 2000 U.S. Census and 2012 Portland State University Population Research Center estimates, St. Helens gained 2,901 residents, Scappoose added 1,709, Columbia City grew by 379, Clatskanie added 212, Rainier added 208, Prescott lost 17, Vernonia lost 148, and the unincorporated parts of the county added 876.

We believe that the Clatskanie population statistic is misleading, because the figures we’ve seen show Clatskanie with a lower population now than in 1993, and the customers served by the Clatskanie post office has dropped by 50 in the past year.

So, what do we conclude from these statistics as a whole?

Columbia County needs jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector which also directly spurs jobs in construction and transportation, indirectly boosts the economy in all the other sectors, and provides high property tax valuation to help out local governments.

Please join us in supporting economic development and job creation in Columbia County.


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