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Oregon full employment within sight

December 31, 2015 --

By Josh Lehner
Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Blog

Full employment is finally within sight. It is not here yet, and the current economic expansion is far from perfect, but a long stretch of modest gains in recent years have cumulatively delivered significant progress across the economic spectrum. The number of actual jobs and job openings posted by businesses have never been higher. Combining this with an unemployment rate that is back to normal, at least on paper, indicates that workers are finally becoming a bit scarce. The result is businesses must now compete on price (wages) to attract and retain the best employees. Finally, after years of lackluster wage gains nationally, average hourly earnings for all workers are now increasing faster than inflation. More income for U.S. households will not only feel good but should allow for continued improvement in household finances.

Oregon’s economy continues to make significant gains. Job growth has slowed just a bit from early 2015 rates, yet remains more than strong enough to bring the unemployment rate down and account for the influx of new workers as population growth picks up. More importantly, Oregon’s stronger-than-the-nation’s wage gains have continued through the fall. Overall, the state has regained and retained its traditional economic advantage in expansion relative to the nation. Job growth over the past year in Oregon is more than one percentage point faster than in the typical state. This advantage is primarily due to the state’s industrial structure and migration trends, both of which remain strong today.


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2016 brings these new business laws

December 30, 2015 --

Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate
by Betsy Earls 

The July adjournment of 2015 Session seems like a long time ago, but many of the laws the Legislature passed are just now taking effect. Unless an emergency clause caused a bill to go into effect immediately upon passage, all 2015 legislation will take effect January 1, 2016. As employers prepare for 2016, they should review the following list and consider whether any of their policies need updating.

Ban the Box: HB 3025, known as “Ban the Box,” prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their conviction history on the initial job application. However, note that nothing in this law prevents an employer from including a statement on their job applications saying that all job applicants will be subject to a criminal background check prior to hiring.

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10 most popular business stories of 2015 by NFIB

Give employers personalized minimum wages

December 28, 2015 --

Cascade-PolicyBy Steve Buckstein,
Cascade Policy Institute

Union-backed and activist groups are trying to put measures on the November 2016 ballot to raise Oregon’s minimum wage from the current $9.25 to either $13.50 or $15, and to allow local governments such as the city of Portland to go above whatever the statewide minimum ends up being.

State Senator Michael Dembrow (D) thinks he can improve minimum wage policy by recognizing that different regions of that state have different costs of living and employment climates. He’s trying to craft a bill for the February 2016 legislative session that would set three different minimum wage rates: one for the Portland Metro region, one for the Willamette Valley, and one for everywhere else.

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Are you better off than before the recession?

December 23, 2015 --

Are You Better Off than Before the Recession?
written by Damon Runberg, Central Oregon Regional Economist
Oregon Employment Department

Were you working before the 2007-2009? If so, are you still working today? If you said “yes” to both then I have another question for you. Are you better off today than before the recession?  Anecdotally, I hear stories from families across Oregon who say they don’t feel like we are in an economic expansion due to stagnation in their wages and the rising costs of goods and services. Their paycheck today is spread thinner than it was back in 2005. However, the plural of anecdote is not data. What does the data say? Are pre-recession workers who are still employed better off than they were before the recession?

Using payroll tax records we grabbed all individuals who were employed through all four quarters of 2005. We tracked the wages of this cohort through the recession and into the recent recovery.

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Oregon’s big lay-offs of 2015


By Oregon Small Business Association,

Oregon shed 5,300 jobs in September and its 12-month job growth of nearly 50,000 jobs is substantially lower than the previous 12 months. In fact, 2015 has witnessed significant developments among some of Oregon largest employers, with major companies being bought out, moving operations to other locations, or laying off workers. The glut and downsizing of large employers raises concerns as Oregon’s employment numbers continue to slow.
Capital One lays off 900. The financial service company has announced plans to close its call center in Tigard by the end of the year, resulting in 900 layoffs. Employees do have the opportunity to apply for work within the company. Capital One is Tigard’s largest employer.

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Schrader explains No vote on budget bill

December 22, 2015 --

Congressman Kurt Schrader Kurt-schrader

Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05) stated his disapproval of the House’s passage of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. The bill will fund the government until the end of September 2016. It passed the House today by a vote of 316-113.

“While this bill contained some positive policy additions, our bipartisan forestry disaster budget relief did not make the grade, while anti-privacy cyber provisions, NASCAR support, and Russian rocket engines did.”

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Oregon’s hi-tech sector is being disrupted

December 21, 2015 --

By Josh Lehner
Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Blog

Oregon’s high-technology sector is being disrupted. Industry growth in the past decade is entirely concentrated in software, while Oregon’s historical strength in hardware is no longer the driver of job growth. Hardware remains the state’s comparative advantage, pays a large number of employees very high wages, and drives much of the state’s GDP growth due to its productivity. However, relatively flat employment in hardware — like manufacturing overall — has been, and is the new up. Conversely, software companies are driving job growth in the sector, much of which is concentrated in Multnomah County. See here for more on the sector definitions.


The Oregonian’s Mike Rogoway has two recent interesting articles on this software growth and the fact that many of these firms are outposts, or non-Oregon headquartered firms. Underpinning his interesting articles is work our office has done, but only with the help of our friends in Research at the Employment Department and in Research at the Department of Revenue.

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6 key items in big budget deal

December 18, 2015 --

Chamber-of-commerceU.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue issued the following comments regarding the compromise FY2016 omnibus spending bill and the policy priorities that were included:

“Congress continues to defy expectations that nothing would get done this year. It already passed the first meaningful reform to entitlements in a generation, the first transportation bill in a decade, the first changes to our broken permitting process since 1969, Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, and trade promotion authority. The omnibus spending bill—while far from perfect—builds on these achievements by implementing a number of important business priorities that will strengthen economic growth, create jobs, and enhance America’s competitiveness and security. Additionally, we applaud lawmakers for agreeing on a long-term package of vital tax provisions that will avert tax hikes and bring companies certainty as we continue to work toward much needed comprehensive tax reform.

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Oregon NFIB on breakthrough budget deal

December 17, 2015 --

nfib-logoBy Oregon NFIB,

At 2009 pages, the political world has a lot to say today on the federal budget deal posted online in the wee hours of the morning, and one provision in particular has Oregon small-business owners hoping Congress seals the deal on Friday and President Obama signs it.

The part of the bipartisan agreement making up to $500,000 of Section 179 expensing permanent, instead of year to year, has been a long-time lobbying goal of the National Federation of Independent Business, America’s largest and leading small-business association. When the Bush tax cuts expired, the amount that small firms could expense dropped down to $25,000 and expired every year, unless Congress extended it.

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