Oregon’s Construction Sector: Jobs At Record High And Growing

Employing more than 123,000 by the end of 2023, the state’s construction industry employment numbers increased by 5% from the previous year, with Oregon having more construction workers than at any other time in the history of the state. The industry is now poised to create significantly more jobs if contractors can find the workers they need to employ.

Anna Johnson, an economist with the Oregon Employment Department indicated that the growth was concentrated in housing, while industrial and commercial construction was almost stagnant.

More housing is on the agenda as Gov. Tina Kotek wants the Legislature to allocate $500 million to build more houses, as part of the target to almost double the pace of housing construction in Oregon- to 36,000 new homes each year. The move is an attempt to solve the chronic housing shortage in the state.

The industrial and commercial sectors are also set to increase, with Amazon building massive new data centers near Boardman and Intel doing the groundwork on a multibillion-dollar expansion of its Hillsboro manufacturing campus. Buoyed by $240 million in government subsidies and the possibility of millions more in federal aid, other chipmakers are also gearing up for growth. With inflation falling, interest rates could also encourage new investment in residential and commercial buildings, giving hope that the growth could continue for some time.

To meet the 36,000 new housing goal, Oregon needs tens of thousands more construction workers. While individual commercial and industrial projects such as data centers and semiconductor factories often import workers from other states to work locally for months at a time, a sustainable increase in housing requires a workforce that lives in Oregon.

The construction sector had 6,400 job openings last fall, second only to the healthcare sector among industries with the greatest labor shortages. The construction industry could still struggle to find workers to meet the growing demand, as many older workers retire and net immigration to Oregon stalls.

The signs are optimistic in the federal apprenticeship data. Often a gateway into the construction industry, apprenticeships are designed for people to learn construction, electrical, and plumbing skills. The number of construction apprenticeships in Oregon has increased 62% over the last decade according to Johnson, potentially bringing a new generation into the field at a time when their skills could be in especially high demand.

As the upward trend continues, the state Office of Economic Analysis expects 4,000 new construction jobs next year- more new jobs than in any other major industry in Oregon.



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