A look at Oregon natural resource industry by the numbers

by Gail Krumenauer, Charles Johnson
Oregon Employment Department

The Oregon Employment Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, Oregon Field Office recently completed a survey of the state’s natural resources industries employers. The natural resources industries include crop production; animal production; forestry and logging; fishing, hunting, and trapping; and agriculture and forestry support activities.

A Large and Seasonal Workforce
Based on the survey results, we estimate that in 2009 there were 122,730 jobs throughout the state’s natural resources industries. Nearly two-thirds of the jobs were in the crop production sector, which dominates both year-round and seasonal employment trends (Table 1). Seasonal jobs are employed for less than nine months in a year, while year-round jobs are employed for nine months or longer.

We estimate that in 2009 there were 37,167 year-round jobs and 85,563 seasonal jobs employed throughout the state’s natural resources industries. Fishing, hunting and trapping accounted for the least year-round or seasonal jobs of the sectors surveyed. The animal production and forestry and logging sectors also had relatively small seasonal job counts compared with the crop production and agriculture and forestry support activities sectors.

Employers reported that roughly three out of every five jobs is classified in the farmworker occupation. There were 60,681 farmworkers working with crops, or nursery and greenhouse plants, and another 14,661 farmworkers working with farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals; 75,342 farmworkers in all (Table 2). Jobs in the closely related occupation of “all other” agricultural workers numbered 9,479. Employers reported jobs in more than 100 different occupations throughout the state, ranging from farmworkers and firefighters, to veterinarians and sales managers, to historians and floral designers. However, 90 percent of all jobs were found in the 15 occupations that each had more than 1,000 jobs.

The proportion of year-round versus seasonal jobs in Oregon’s natural resources industries varied drastically between different occupations. On the high end, seasonal jobs accounted for 93 percent of farm labor contractors; 87 percent of firefighters; 83 percent of tree trimmers and pruners; 82 percent of farmworkers and laborers working with crops, or nursery and greenhouse plants; and 80 percent of fishers and fishing workers (Table 2). On the other end of the spectrum, only 7 percent of general and operations managers, and 21 percent of logging equipment operators, had seasonal jobs. Many of the smaller occupations also had lower concentrations of seasonal jobs; in occupations with fewer than 1,000 total jobs, only 37 percent of jobs were seasonal.

Year-round jobs outnumbered seasonal jobs in 72 of the 102 occupations reported by employers. But overall, seasonal jobs outnumbered year-round jobs by more than two-to-one across all sectors within the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries.


Table 1
Distribution of  Jobs by Sector and Seasonality
Sector Year-Round Seasonal
Count Percent Count Percent
Crop production 20,377 55% 58,061 68%
Animal production 5,249 14% 4,145 5%
Forestry and logging 4,935 13% 1,401 2%
Fishing, hunting and trapping 365 1% 495 1%
Agriculture and forestry support activities 6,241 17% 21,461 25%
Total 37,167 100% 85,563 100%
Table 2
Year-Round and Seasonal Jobs for Occupations With
1,000 Total Jobs or More
Year-Round Seasonal
Occupation Title Jobs Percent Jobs Percent
Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse 10,899 18% 49,782 82%
Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals 5,385 37% 9,276 63%
Agricultural Workers, All Other 2,223 23% 7,256 77%
Forest and Conservation Workers 1,147 22% 4,110 78%
Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers 2,354 61% 1,486 39%
Agricultural Equipment Operators 1,362 49% 1,405 51%
First-Line Supervisors of Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Workers 1,371 55% 1,143 45%
Logging Equipment Operators 1,677 79% 451 21%
Firefighters 268 13% 1,785 87%
General and Operations Managers 1,714 93% 125 7%
Farm Labor Contractors 84 7% 1,173 93%
Tree Trimmers and Pruners 200 17% 999 83%
Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products 255 23% 850 77%
Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand 586 53% 517 47%
Fishers and Related Fishing Workers 213 20% 834 80%
All Other Occupations 7,429 63% 4,371 37%
Total 37,167 30% 85,563 70%

Three Out of 20 Jobs Reported as a Green Job

For this survey, employers were asked to identify “green jobs” as those workers whose essential job duties are directly related to one of the components of Oregon’s official definition of a green job.

We estimate that in 2009 there were 6,978 green year-round and 11,581 green seasonal jobs employed throughout Oregon’s agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sectors (Table 3). According to employers, 19 percent of all year-round jobs and 14 percent of all seasonal jobs were green jobs – jobs with essential duties related to Oregon’s definition of a green job.

The crop production sector had 12,748 green jobs in 2009, more than two-thirds of all the green jobs reported. The agriculture and forestry support activities sector employed roughly 15 percent of all green jobs, while the animal production and forestry and logging sectors employed 8 percent and 7 percent of the total, respectively. Oregon’s fishing, hunting, and trapping sector reported fewer than 100 green jobs – less than 0.5 percent of the total.

In the crop production, animal production, and forestry and logging sectors one of every five year-round jobs has essential duties related to the definition of a green job. In the fishing, hunting, and trapping; and agriculture and forestry support activities sectors more than one year-round job in 10 was reported as a green job.


Table 3
Green Jobs by Natural Resources Sector
Sector Green 




Crop production 4,048 8,700
Animal production 1,126 428
Forestry and logging 1,009 374
Fishing, hunting and trapping 48 32
Agriculture and forestry support activities 747 2,047
Total 6,978 11,581

No Significant Difference Between Green Jobs and Other Jobs

In an attempt to learn more about the differences between green jobs and other jobs, employers were asked to identify the three key differences that set their workers with green jobs apart from the rest of their employees. Nearly 1,500 employers reported at least one green job, but only 14 percent of those employers acknowledged that green workers at their establishment had knowledge or skills that differed significantly from their co-workers.

Of the employers that reported at least one green job and reported some difference between workers with green jobs and other workers, 25 percent indicated that workers with green jobs had a personal interest in sustainability. Some employers also reported that their green workers had significantly different technical skills or knowledge, work ethic or attitude, or education or formal training.


Employer Preferences for Special Licenses, Certificates, or Training

Employers in Oregon’s natural resources industries were asked a variety of questions about their workers and hiring practices. Table 4 shows the percent of employers in each sector responding affirmative to each question.

With the exception of animal producers, more than 20 percent of natural resources employers preferred or required special licenses, certificates, or training for their workers (Table 4).

Roughly 10 percent of Oregon’s agricultural employers reported that certification or training related to chemical pesticide application was preferred or required for some workers. Only four other categories had at least 100 employers (roughly 1% each) that preferred or required some workers to have special licenses, certificates, or training: irrigation systems, certified sustainable production, health and safety, and CDL or valid driver’s license. Only 20 employers indicated that they preferred or required some workers to have a certification or training in renewable energy, the least of any pre-identified category.


Table 4
Percent of Employers Responding Affirmative, by Sector
Question Crop Production Animal Production Forestry and Logging Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Agriculture and Forestry Support Activities
Estimated number of employers 6,070 4,122 655 140 635
Special licenses, certificates, or training are preferred or required for
some workers…
23% 5% 26% 26% 33%
Some workers use special tools and technologies… 25% 14% 9% 7% 16%
Some workers have green-related job activities… 36% 24% 36% 29% 33%
It is difficult to find workers with necessary knowledge and skills… 12% 8% 29% 33% 22%

Employees Using Special Tools and Technologies

Roughly one out of every four employers in the crop production sector indicated that workers used special tools and technologies, much higher than any other sector.

Roughly 10 percent of Oregon’s agricultural employers reported that some workers used irrigation scheduling and management tools in 2009. Some employers reported their workers used tools and technologies in four other categories: precision nutrient application systems (5%), soil moisture sensors (3%), solar panels (3%), and energy efficiency systems (2%).


Disconnect Between “Green Jobs” and “Green-Related Job Activities”

Employers were asked if any green-related job activities were performed by workers at their establishment, and roughly 68 percent responded “no.” Employers in the crop production and forestry and logging sectors were slightly more likely to have some green-related job activities at their establishment.

Erosion control was the most commonly cited activity: 14 percent of employers reported their workers performed job duties in the category. A fair number of employers reported their workers performed green-related job activities in six other categories: composting (10%), integrated pest management (10%), wildlife habitat enhancement (9%), sustainable agricultural production (8%), watershed management (8%), and manure management (7%).

While only 13 percent of natural resource employers reported having at least one green job in 2009, 32 percent reported having workers that performed green-related job activities during the period. The likely reason for the difference between these two estimates is a small but important difference in how the two questions were asked. On the first question, employers identified “green jobs” as those with essential job duties related to the definition of a green job, while the second question asked employers to identify any green-related job activities that were performed by their workers. So, while more than 18,500 jobs in Oregon’s natural resources industries has essential duties related to the state’s definition of a green job, it is likely that many more jobs have at least some green-related job activities.


10 Percent of Employers Have Trouble Finding Qualified Workers

Roughly 90 percent of employers responding to the survey indicated that they don’t have difficulty finding employees with the skills needed at their business. Employer responses were classified into three categories: hard skills, soft skills, and other. Hard skills generally refer to skills and abilities that are trainable or measurable like “familiarity with tree species.” Soft skills incorporate broader concepts and intrinsic or internal capabilities such as “can follow directions.” The other category was created to account for things like “prior experience or items that referred to the physical ability to perform strenuous tasks.” Of all the traits and skills employers say they need, hard skills accounted for 50 percent, soft skills for 35 percent, and other items for the remaining 15 percent.


More Data Will Be Available Online

We hope the data and insights provided here, and any additional research conducted based on these findings, will help answer many of the questions about the workforce needs of Oregon’s natural resources industries employers. A full survey report, which includes more detailed data analysis, will be available online at www.QualityInfo.org/Green.

“This article has been funded, either wholly or in part, with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, under grant #GJ-19828. The contents of this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement of same by the U.S. Government.”


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