Oregon Economy is Booming, With Record-High Employment in Construction

Oregon Economy: In November, the construction sector in Oregon employed 121,200 people on a seasonally adjusted basis, setting a new record high. After the COVID recession, when it fell to roughly 100,000 employment in April 2020, the sector soon recovered. As one of Oregon’s strongest industries in 2022, it has grown quickly. Prior to that, the sector created jobs gradually and quickly from 2013 to 2019 after a protracted downturn from 2009 to 2012, during which time employment stayed around 70,000 for several years following the 2008–09 crisis.

Oregon Economy is Booming, With Record-high Employment in Construction

When taking a look back over 30 years, it is evident that the business has been very cyclical, going through booms and busts throughout the course of multi-year expansions that were then followed by shorter but possibly abrupt contractions. In the late 1990s, the industry maintained a steady employment level of around 80,000 for several years until seeing a brief decline in employment during a moderate recession. The number of jobs in Oregon’s construction sector was slightly lower than they are now, at roughly 104,000, just before the 2008 crisis.

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Since the late 1980s, the population and economy of Oregon have typically been growing. Due mostly to net in-migration, or more people entering into Oregon than leaving, the population normally increased by around 1% per year.

Oregon Economy is Booming, With Record-High Employment in Construction
Oregon Economy is Booming, With Record-High Employment in Construction

It might be useful to consider the total number of jobs in the construction business in relation to overall employment because the population has been growing continuously. Between 4% and 6% of Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment during the past 30 years has been accounted for by the construction industry. 1992 saw the lowest percentage over this time period, with 4% of workers in this industry. A close second was the years 2010 to 2012, during which 4.2% of payroll positions were in the construction industry.

One of the highest percentages of construction employment was employed during the housing price boom that preceded the crisis of 2008–2009, accounting for 6% of all nonfarm payroll jobs over most of 2006–2007. With an average of 6% of nonfarm jobs in the sector over the most recent 36 months, the concentration of Oregon’s construction industry is currently back to where it was at that time.

Employment in the Construction Industry

Employment in the construction industry in Oregon either stagnated between 1997 and 2000 and the two recent national recessions, or it dramatically declined immediately before and undoubtedly during the 2008–2009 recession. The good news is that Oregon’s construction employment swiftly recovered from the COVID slump and is currently setting new records.

The pattern of home starts was one of the factors that contributed to the economic boom between 2013 and 2019 being so prolonged and sustained, both in Oregon and nationally. Building permits and the house starts in the years immediately following the 2008–2009 crisis were remarkably low by historical standards. Given that new house construction accounts for a significant portion of the change in the total dollar worth of economic activity for an area, the low level of residential construction activity and spending was a constraining factor for economic growth.

In Oregon, single-family and multi-family residential building permits stalled at around 600 per month on average from 2009 to 2011, but they have subsequently risen to the present rate, which has been averaging close to 1,600 per month for the past six or more years. We’re still well below peak levels witnessed at various periods throughout the 1990s and mid-2000s, not to mention the house-building boom in the late 1970s, when construction permit activity was double the present level, despite the almost tripling of monthly housing permits during that time.

More than merely homes and apartments are built during construction activities. There are jobs in commercial construction, road building, renovation, and other types of construction. This succinct essay examined residential building permit patterns over time since they are an important indicator that is easily accessible to evaluate Oregon’s construction industry.

Overall, Oregon’s employment statistics in the construction industry show that the previous two years have been characterized by high demand. Over the past few decades, Oregon’s building sector has seen multiple cycles.

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The number of employees in the industry is now at a record high for all of the construction. Furthermore, when compared to the state’s constantly expanding population, 6% of all nonfarm payroll jobs are virtually tied with the record highs in 2006 and 2007.

The coordinator for current employment statistics at the Oregon Employment Department is David Cooke. David Cooke may be reached at 971-375-5288 or david.c.cooke@employ.oregon.gov.

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