338235486888240 486377435793741. 486377435793741.
top of page

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.

The Aging of Oregon’s Maritime Sector Workers

The maritime sector workforce tends to be older than Oregon’s overall workforce. About 27 percent of jobs in Oregon’s covered fishing, maritime manufacturing, and transportation jobs are held by workers age 55 years and over. That’s a higher share than the 23 percent of the overall workforce. At least some of these workers will be looking to retire within the next 10 years.

Maritime industries with the most workers nearing retirement are support activities for water transportation (466 jobs), ship and boat building (390 jobs), and seafood product preparation and packaging (316 jobs). The industry with the largest share of workers age 55 years and over is sea and coastal transportation (32%), where 70 jobs are held by workers age 55 years and over.

Information about the age of the workforce is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators. It is based on covered employment that is combined with the age of individual workers from federal sources. There is less industry detail available from this source, so the age information is limited to eight maritime sectors and covers 55 percent of covered jobs.

Projections of Employment Change through the Year 2027

The maritime sector workforce is expected to expand by 5 percent between 2017 and 2027, according to projections from the Oregon Employment Department. That is a net increase of more than 400 jobs. Fishing is expected to add 160 jobs, the largest gain in the maritime sector. Seafood product preparation and packaging has the second largest gain, with 118 jobs new jobs by 2027.

Industries projected to have fewer jobs in 2027 are support activities for water transportation (-59 jobs); scenic and sightseeing water transportation (-14); and sea and coastal transportation (-2). Although these industries are projected to have fewer jobs in the future than today, they will continue to need more workers due to replacement job openings as current workers change occupations or leave the labor force. The need for replacement openings is reflected in the occupational employment data below.

The fishing industry employment projection is an annual average count of jobs in order for it to be comparable to other industries. It is conceptually the same group of commercial fishers in Oregon, but measured as jobs instead of individuals.

Occupations in Oregon’s Maritime Industries

The workforce of Oregon maritime industries consists of more than 100 different occupations. Information about maritime occupations helps to better describe Oregon’s maritime workers using information about hourly wages, projected replacement openings, the educational attainment required for a job applicant to be competitive in the occupation, and other occupational information. However, occupational data is limited to 77 percent of covered maritime jobs.

Replacement openings, the number of job openings created when workers change occupations or leave the labor force, are expected to total nearly 6,600 through the year 2027. This represents the need for workers with the training required to fill those openings. Replacements are a much larger source of workforce need than jobs created due to sector growth. Through 2027, Oregon’s maritime sector will need 16 replacement workers for each new worker needed due to economic expansion. That’s a greater need for replacements than across the economy overall. Oregon projections show nine replacement openings for every opening created due to economic growth. With an older workforce, the maritime sector is going to have openings to fill as current workers retire.

The 10 occupations with the most jobs in Oregon’s maritime sector are shown in the table. An expanded list of occupations is available by contacting the author.


Oregon’s maritime sector is widespread and plays a key economic role in many coastal and rural communities. With a workforce totaling nearly 19,000 in 2017 and average wages exceeding most other industries, the maritime sector supports many family-wage jobs in Oregon. The sector is expected to continue adding new jobs, creating the need for more workers. Oregon’s maritime workforce is also aging. A large share of the current workforce will retire or change careers within the next 10 years, creating replacement openings for new workers. These workforce trends represent challenges for employers trying to fill their job vacancies, as well as more job opportunities for Oregonians in the maritime sector.

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page