One reason for food manufacturing's steadiness over time is efficiency gains due to technological innovations. Computer operated equipment can now picture, sort and grade food products in the blink of an eye; work that traditionally would have been completely done by hand using human senses. Food manufacturing is not alone in adopting new technologies to increase efficiency. Technological innovations in recent decades allowed Oregon's wood product manufacturing sector to automate many functions and become a much more efficient industry, being able to maintain production levels while reducing labor input.
Food manufacturing tends to weather economic slowdowns and recessions fairly well. People may hold off on purchasing a new house, new appliances, or they may cut back on dining out when the economy is slow. But people have to eat, even when the economy is not doing well. That certainly has been the case during the recent recession. From 2007 to 2009, Oregon's total employment declined 6.9 percent. Over that same period of time, Oregon's manufacturing sector shed 18 percent of its jobs. In contrast, Oregon's food manufacturing employment managed to grow 2.6 percent from 2007 to 2009, bucking the trend of large employment losses experienced by the rest of the manufacturing sector during the recession. Food manufacturing has also been a steady industry in the long run. From 1990 to 2009, Oregon's manufacturing employment declined 18 percent. Over that same period of time, food manufacturing employment was down just 200 jobs or 0.8 percent.
Oregon's food manufacturing industry comprises a larger share of the state's total employment compared with the nation. Nationally, food manufacturing made up 1.1 percent of total nonfarm employment in 2009. In Oregon, the sector comprised 1.5 percent of total nonfarm employment in 2009. California is very well known for its agriculture industry, yet food manufacturing made up only 1.0 percent of California's total nonfarm employment in 2009.
Looking within food manufacturing, one of the big reasons why Oregon has a larger than average share of employment is the large presence of frozen food manufacturing (Graph 1). In the U.S., frozen food manufacturing comprises a little less than 6 percent of total food manufacturing employment. In Oregon, frozen food manufacturing comprised 27 percent of the state's total food manufacturing employment in 2008, more than four times the concentration found nationally.
Much of Oregon's frozen food manufacturing employment is located in the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon, two areas with large concentrations of food manufacturing (Graph 2). In rural areas, food manufacturing makes up a larger percentage of total employment. Eastern Oregon accounts for 16 percent of the state's food processing employment even though it has less than 4 percent of the state's total private employment. The coastal counties of Oregon make up more than 8 percent of statewide food manufacturing employment while they comprise only 4 percent of Oregon's total private employment. The Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the only metropolitan area in Oregon where food manufacturing comprises a larger than average percentage of total employment. Much of the frozen food manufacturing employment in the Willamette Valley is located in the Salem area.
The Portland area has the largest share of food manufacturing in Oregon with 35 percent of the state's total. However, Portland makes up nearly 54 percent of the state's total private employment, so food manufacturing is underrepresented in the Portland area compared to the statewide average. Although a significant amount of Portland's food manufacturing sector produces products that are sold out of state, a larger percentage of the products produced in Portland will be sold within Oregon compared with a rural area like Eastern Oregon. In Eastern Oregon, the vast majority of the frozen food manufactured is sold and consumed outside of Oregon.
Table 1 displays the 10 largest occupations within Oregon's food manufacturing sector. It shouldn't be a surprise to see that the large occupations within the industry are growing at close to 7 percent, the same percentage food manufacturing is expected to grow from 2008 to 2018. However, job openings due to growth are a fairly small piece of the puzzle regarding total job openings in the manufacturing sector. For some time, replacement openings have been the much larger piece of job openings in Oregon's manufacturing sector. Food manufacturing follows that trend. From 2008 to 2018, Oregon's manufacturing sector is projected to have 41,561 total job openings; more than 40,000 of those job openings will be replacement openings. Food manufacturing will have more growth openings than many other manufacturing industries, but the vast majority of openings will be replacement openings.
|Oregon Food Manufacturing Projections for Largest Occupations, 2008-2018|
|2008 Employment||2018 Employment||Percent Growth||2008 Occupational Percent of Total Industry||2008 Industry Percent of Total Occupation|
|Packaging and Filling Machine Operators and Tenders||2,819||3,023||7.2%||12%||56%|
|Production Workers' Helpers||1,080||1,158||7.2%||5%||23%|
|Production Workers, All Other||997||1,065||6.8%||4%||12%|
|Packers and Packagers, Hand||929||997||7.3%||4%||10%|
|Supervisors and Managers of Production and Operating Workers||896||960||7.1%||4%||10%|
|Food Mixing and Blending Machine Operators and Tenders||883||951||7.7%||4%||78%|
|Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand||872||935||7.2%||4%||3%|
|Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products||837||893||6.7%||4%||29%|
|Fork Lift, Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators||737||789||7.1%||3%||8%|
Manufacturing has traditionally been a male-dominated industry in terms of employment. Oregon's private sector has nearly 48 percent female workers. In Oregon's manufacturing sector, 27 percent of the workforce is female (Table 2). Food manufacturing's workforce is nearly 41 percent female, less than the average across the private sector, but a dramatically larger percentage than the overall manufacturing sector. Food manufacturing comprised 12 percent of total manufacturing in Oregon during the first quarter of 2009, yet it employed nearly 19 percent of all females in the manufacturing sector.
|Oregon Employment by Industry and Sex|
|First Quarter 2009|
|Source: U.S. Census Bureau, LED|
One of the reasons that food manufacturing's wages are relatively low compared to the rest of manufacturing has to do with the occupational mix of jobs within the industry, and the skills those jobs require. Out of the ten largest occupations within food manufacturing, none require any postsecondary training, they all require on-the-job training or related work experience. Typically, jobs that require less training and education pay lower wages than occupations requiring more training and education.
Graph 4 shows that younger workers in food manufacturing have relatively high monthly wages compared to their peers in the private sector. However, average monthly wages for food manufacturing workers in their mid-20s and older lag behind the private-sector average. The story is different when we look at the manufacturing sector as a whole. Manufacturing wages are consistently higher than the average private-sector wage across all age groups.
Although food manufacturing employment growth has not kept pace with the overall growth of the economy over the past half-century, it has remained an important and stable industry employing workers throughout the state. It is a particularly important industry for many rural parts of Oregon.