Manufacturing in the Portland-Metro region

Manufacturing is good for Portland-metro’s economy

Manufacturing in Portland-metro is highly productive and large relative to other metro areas. Portland-metro’s manufacturing sector accounts for 107,000 jobs, earning the rank of 17 among the largest 100 metro areas in the U.S.10 Manufacturing workers make up nearly 11 percent of Portland-metro’s workforce. In contrast, manufacturing makes up only about 8.5 percent of total employment in other metro areas.

In 2010, Portland-metro’s manufacturing sector produced $32.6 billion worth of output, which constitutes more than 26 percent of total regional output. Manufacturing’s share of total output in Portland-metro is substantially higher than the U.S.-metro average of 11 percent and is only slightly lower than San Jose-metro, which has the highest share among large metro areas. Output per worker in Portland-metro’s manufacturing sector is approximately $300,000, approximately twice the U.S.-metro average.

Consistent with its very large output per worker, an important segment of Portland-metro’s manufacturing sector is specialized in information technology and very high-tech manufacturing. Approximately 34 percent of Portland-metro’s manufacturing qualifies as very high-tech, nearly twice the U.S. average.

As shown in Figure 5, 24 percent of manufacturing employment in Portland-metro is in the semiconductor and other electronic component sector.

Overall, nearly 75 percent of Portland-metro’s manufacturing employment is in the durable goods sector (the blue parts of the pie). Sectors with relatively large shares of total manufacturing employment include fabricated metal products, food, machinery and transportation equipment.

In recent decades, employment in manufacturing declined in Portland-metro and throughout the U.S. In 1990, approximately 125,000 people worked in Portland-metro’s manufacturing industry, but by 2011 Portland-metro’s manufacturing employment fell to approximately 110,000. As shown in Figure 6, the decline in employment in Portland-metro, however, has been slower than in the U.S. overall and slower than in metro areas such as Seattle, Minneapolis, and Denver.

Portland-metro’s slower decline in manufacturing, in part, stems from the substantial growth in the semiconductor industry in the 1990s. As shown in Figure 7, for nearly all manufacturing industries for which there is data, employment fell between 1990 and 2011; however, employment in the semi-conductor industry more than doubled, increasing by 109 percent over this period. This trend demonstrates why continued investment by Intel and similar firms has been critical to Portland-metro’s economic vitality.


Antonio “Tony” Gutierrez
Team Leader
ESCO Corporation
Years with company: 40
Oregon employees: 1,000

Manufacturing is good for Portland-metro’s communities of color and recent immigrants

Manufacturing traditionally has been an entry point for workers from a variety of backgrounds into higher wage jobs.

Portland-metro non-white workers and workers who do not speak English at home are significantly better paid if they work in the manufacturing sector than if they work in the non-manufacturing sector. As shown in figure 8, non-white workers earn nearly 50 percent more in manufacturing careers than in non-manufacturing jobs. Workers who don’t speak English at home – mostly recent immigrants – earn 47 percent more in manufacturing than non-manufacturing jobs.

Manufacturing is good for workers with different education attainment levels

As the makeup of Portland-metro’s manufacturing has changed, manufacturing employment has also changed. Figure 9 shows the change in educational attainment over time for manufacturing and non-manufacturing workers in Portland since 1950. In 1950, nearly all manufacturing workers had no post-secondary education.

By 2010, the share of manufacturing workers with no post-secondary education fell to 30.7 percent. Over the same time, non-manufacturing saw a similar shift; however, manufacturing firms are still more likely to employ workers with no college education (30.7 percent vs. 26.8 percent).

Given the higher pay and better benefit levels, workers with no post-secondary education have a better chance at a family-wage job in the manufacturing
sector than any other sector.

Manufacturing is good for small businesses

While there are a number of large manufacturers in Portland-metro, the majority of Portland-metro’s manufacturing firms are small or very small companies. Roughly 70 percent of all manufacturing firms in the region have fewer than 20 employees.

There is a connection between small and large manufacturers. As seen in the coalition’s traded sector report, small firms such as PECO and BOWCO manufacture parts that are purchased by larger firms like Boeing and PCC Structurals.



10 These facts and several below were taken from Helper, S., T. Krueger, and H. Wial (2012) “Location of American Manufacturing: Trends in the Geography of Production” Brookings Metropolitan Program.