Trucking leads region's list of high-demand job openings

Staff photo by E.J. Harris<br> Truck drivers will continue to be in high demand during the next decade in Umatilla and Morrow counties according to the Oregon Employment Department.

SALEM - Truck drivers will continue to be in high demand during the next decade in Umatilla and Morrow counties.

Some other jobs also will remain highly desirable, says the Oregon Employment Department. Regional and statewide reports issued last week predict modest job growth in Oregon between 2008 and 2018.

State analysts predict job growth in Umatilla and Morrow counties will be 5 percent, the lowest in the state, during the next decade. Their report lists about 215 high-wage, high-demand job categories that should expand in the two counties.

The state defines high-wage occupations as those paying more than the median wage for a particular region. In Umatilla and Morrow counties, the median wage is $14.36 per hour.

And it defines high-demand occupations as those having more than the median number of total openings (growth plus replacement) for the region. In this region, that number is five.

Many regional job openings are expected because of workers retiring or leaving their jobs for some other reason.

Kathy Mendoza, regional Employment Department manager, thinks the regional projections are pretty accurate. Many truck drivers, teachers and health care professionals are nearing retirement, she said.

"With St. Anthony looking at building a new facility in Pendleton, that will increase the need as well, and Good Shepherd just seems to keep expanding."

Mendoza said closure of the Umatilla Chemical Depot also would impact regional employment.

Still, jobs for truck drivers are expected to have the greatest demand, with more than 260 job openings in the region by 2018.

State figures show 1,000 truckers working in the region, and the need for 80 more within 10 years. But state analysts also expect the need for 186 replacement truckers during that period, for a total of 266 truck-driving jobs.

The median wage for truckers in the region is $16.41 per hour, state officials say.

Michael Dickens, president of Hermiston-based Hammell Transport Service Inc., questions how the state can predict the need for jobs so far in advance.

"Any forecast at this point is a guess," he said. "There are too many unknowns right now."

Dickens said Hammell is considering shrinking its business instead of expanding. That's because there's not enough freight for the trucks he has on the road today.

Other regional jobs are expected to have more than 100 openings by 2018, including correctional officers, 180; registered nurses, 127; elementary teachers, 124; general and operations managers, 120; and secondary teachers, 107.

Scores of other regional jobs are expected to have fewer than 100 openings.

Statewide, forecasters expect economic growth to add more than 160,000 jobs, a 9 percent gain during the decade. That would be slightly less than the 10 percent gain that occurred between 1998 and 2008 and much slower than in many prior 10-year periods.

Education and health care services are expected to grow by 23 percent and add nearly 50,000 jobs to meet the needs of the state's growing and aging population.

The slowest-growing sector is construction with 1 percent growth during the decade, followed by information with 2 percent growth.

Manufacturing likely will decline by 3 percent, losing more than 5,000 jobs, the only broad sector not to gain jobs during the decade.

In addition to the 163,000 job openings because of economic growth, department forecasters expect an additional 430,000 openings to replace workers who leave their occupations.

Projections for Oregon's 15 workforce regions show the fastest growth in central and southern Oregon. Metro areas are expected to grow at close to the statewide average and half of the state's job growth will be in the Portland area.

The projections are available on the Oregon Employment Department's economic and workforce information Web site at www.QualityInfo.org. Select a region from the map and look in the Publications tab for Regional Projections by Industry and Occupation 2008-2018.

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