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Oregon’s Maritime Sector Workforce Totals 19,000 in 2017

By Nick Beleiciks

Alaska Boats at the Port Of Newport International Terminal. (Photo from Port of Newport)

In 2017, Oregon Senate Bill 867 called for the creation of a task force on maritime sector workforce development; described Oregon’s maritime sector in general; and directed the task force to “study and develop a description of the scope and extent of the maritime sector workforce in Oregon, which shall include those members of the maritime sector workforce who are Oregon taxpayers but who work outside Oregon.” This article provides labor market information about Oregon’s maritime sector.

Oregon’s maritime sector workforce totaled nearly 19,000 in 2017. This includes Oregon residents and nonresidents who worked in Oregon, as well as Oregon residents who worked out of state. The count includes civilian maritime workers, such as those working in Oregon businesses; commercial fishers in Oregon waters; commercial fishers who live in Oregon and fish in Alaska, California, or Washington; and active mariners with a U.S. Coast Guard officer endorsement or rating who use an Oregon mailing address. The count also includes military service members in U.S. Coast Guard and Navy.

Measuring Oregon’s Maritime Sector Workforce

No single source of data can fully measure employment in Oregon’s maritime sector. Measuring employment in the sector requires data from multiple sources, which are described below. Each source provides different information about Oregon’s maritime workforce.

Some sources of maritime workforce data are counts of jobs (an employer-employee relationship), while other sources are counts of individuals (a license holder or service member). Oregon’s maritime sector workforce totaled 18,981 in 2017 when using this approach of combining data sources. The table below shows Oregon’s maritime sector workforce by data source.

More than 10,000 maritime sector jobs are “covered” by Oregon’s Unemployment Insurance program. These are jobs where the employer pays unemployment insurance tax on the wages for each worker. The tax information is used to create the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data series, the most detailed source for industry employment and wages by location. Covered employment is also the base data series for the age of the workforce, employment projections, and employment by occupation.

Industry employment is based on 15 industries that directly correspond to the description of the maritime sector in Oregon Senate Bill 867. All employment in these industries is counted. The maritime industries totaled 7,042 jobs in 2017. Some maritime businesses and government establishments are classified in other industries, but are an integral part of Oregon’s maritime sector. These establishments have been identified, where possible, and counted as additional maritime sector firms for a total of 2,977 jobs.

The 1999 Legislature passed legislation that impacted a certain segment of the fishing industry. House Bill 3308 excluded from unemployment insurance fishing services performed by workers on boats with crews of less than 10 individuals where the payment is based on the share of the catch. As a result, covered employment data captures less than 10 percent of commercial fishing employment in Oregon. Because of this, the Oregon Employment Department creates separate estimates for commercial fishing employment.

Oregon’s 23 public ports support the maritime sector in multiple ways and their employment is counted in more than one industry, so port employment is not shown as a separate line in the table. However, Oregon’s maritime ports workforce accounted for 772 jobs and a total payroll of nearly $59 million in 2017.

Commercial Fishing in Oregon (3,498 individuals) – Nearly 3,500 commercial fishers worked in Oregon in 2017, as estimated by the Oregon Employment Department. The estimate is based on licenses issued by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to commercial fishers in Oregon.

Distant Waters Commercial Fishing (1,447 individuals) – Oregon’s nearly 1,500 distant waters commercial fishers work in Alaska, California, and Washington, but live in Oregon. They are counted here based on the number of people with an Oregon address who were issued commercial fishing licenses in those states. There were 1,337 Alaska Commercial Fishermen and Skippers, 86 in California, and 24 in Washington.

Mariners with U.S. Coast Guard Endorsements / Ratings (2,598 individuals) – About 2,600 active mariners had an Oregon mailing address as of December 31, 2017. These mariners have at least one U.S. Coast Guard issued credential. Credentials are the professional qualifications needed to preform specific capacities on a vessel. A few examples are master deck officer, engineer officer, able seaman, and wiper, but there are many more. The average Oregon mariner holds five ratings or officer endorsements. In total, Oregon mariners are certified to perform 12,344 capacities in the maritime sector.

Coast Guard and Navy Service Members (1,653 individuals) – Nearly 1,700 service members are involved in Oregon’s maritime military, which consists primarily of the Coast Guard and Navy. According to the 13th Coast Guard District, there are 1,273 active duty and auxiliary personnel serving in Oregon. According to the Navy Operational Support Center at Swan Island, there are 330 Navy reservists in Oregon. According to Navy Recruiting District Portland, there are 50 active duty Navy recruiters in Oregon.

Wages in Oregon’s Covered Maritime Industries

Oregon’s covered maritime industries paid a total of nearly $608 million in wages in 2017. The average annual wage of covered jobs in Oregon’s maritime industry was $60,853. That is 19 percent higher than Oregon’s overall annual wage of $51,117. Average annual wages vary depending on industry, ranging from a low of $27,850 in fish and seafood markets to a high of $139,144 in sea and coastal transportation.

The average annual wage is based on the 10,000 jobs covered by the unemployment insurance program. Wage information is not available for commercial fishing, active mariners, or military service members.

Importance of Maritime Sector Jobs in Rural Communities

Maritime sector jobs are prevalent on the Oregon Coast, of course, but maritime sector jobs can be found in 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties. The only counties without a measureable maritime workforce were Harney, Malheur, and Wheeler counties.

In some communities, maritime sector jobs are a large portion of the total workforce. The counties with the largest portion of workforce in the maritime sector are Sherman (12.9%), Lincoln (6.5%), Clatsop (5.2%), Coos (4.1%), Curry (3.6%), and Tillamook (2.3%). Sherman County tops the list because U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jobs at John Day Dam are part of Oregon’s maritime workforce, and the jobs are a large share of the county’s employment.

The maritime sector jobs of coastal counties totaled 4,840 jobs. Multnomah County has 3,744 jobs, the most maritime jobs of any county, but these jobs were just 0.7 percent of the total workforce.

The number of maritime sector jobs by county is available from the covered employment data. Commercial fishers by county of residence is available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Nonemployer Statistics and is based on Internal Revenue Service income tax filings. Covered employment and nonemployers are combined for the map of maritime workforce by region.