Wonks R Us

Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet

It’s Either This or Rockband

We all deal with stress in our own ways.  Some people jog, some people play games, some people watch movies and then there is me.  I am managing my stress level by reading about public policy.  If you think about it, reading public policy to relax makes a certain amount of sense.  You start with a problem, outline the issues that led to the aforementioned problem and then identify solutions for the problem.  If the problem statement is well defined, causality is well substantiated and the solutions are at least theoretically achievable, it makes me happy.  This is usually a quiet and content kind of happiness because I can take comfort in the knowledge that at least somebody gets it.

If the problem statement is poorly defined, the arguments are weak, causality and correlation are referenced interchangeably and the solutions are ridiculous, then I get to annoy those around me (a trick I learned from David).  I stomp around angrily and people stupid enough to ask me what’s wrong get an earful. Someone who partially hears the discussion and asks what we are discussing gives me the opportunity get to rant to a second person. By then the first person has had time to process my rants and we all get into a heated discussion (I have found this last point to be true whether or not everyone in the conversation agrees).  Rinse and repeat until I have achieved full catharsis and can go back to what I was doing originally.

Either way, I win.

Anyway, I was poking around my RSS feeds this morning and I ran across a link to this article listing 2009’s best cities.  There are seemingly endless sets of “best cities” lists and I generally ignore them.  What caught my eye in this article was the criteria used: both the overall number of jobs and the likelihood that those jobs would be retained in a soft economy. At the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Cabinet meeting last week, it was very interesting to hear which industries were bouncing back and which were stagnant or losing additional jobs.  I wanted to see how Oregon would fare using the same criteria.

I poked around on Google Scholar and found this great publication, Working in Oregon, that contained analysis by both public and private sector economists. It offers some useful context for many of the perennial complaints about our commercial competitiveness and projected job growth.

  • Oregon’s wages are low, on average. Oregon’s wages are lower than the national average, but typical of similar-sized economies on the West Coast.
  • Wage gains since 2002 have generally equaled or exceeded CPI. The economic boom benefited workers at all income levels. The median wages across all earning quintiles (from the lowest-earning 1/5 to the highest earning 1/5) rose more rapidly than inflation in each year from 2002-2005.
  • Oregon has a moderately diversified economy. Oregon ranks in the middle of all states in a measure of the diversity of the US economy.
  • Oregon’s employment is concentrated in a few sectors as compared to the national economy. We have above-average employment in greenhouse and nursery production (there is a reason we are known as the Grass Capital of the World), logging and forestry, fruit and vegetable preserving , wood and paper product manufacturing and electronic component manufacturing. We have below average employment in petroleum and coal mining, textile and apparel manufacturing, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, spectator sports organizations (also not news, Oregonians seem to prefer playing sports to watching them), and amusement parks and arcades.
  • There are two categories of jobs that will be becoming available by 2016. Replacement job openings (those created by retiring boomers, or by others who have left the workforce) are almost twice the number of jobs created through growth.  The authors estimate that approximately 250,000 growth jobs will be created in Oregon between 2006 and 2016. They expect approximately 450,000 replacement jobs in that same time period.
  • Job training is critical for filling both replacement and growth jobs. Employment projections were developed for 700 occupations, only 40 of which are going to be employing fewer people in 2016.  Six-hundred ninety five on those occupations will need newly trained workers to fill replacement jobs in the next 10 years.
  • Only 1/4 of Oregon’s projected 700,000 job openings (both replacement & growth) will require post secondary-education. Job applicants for half of those jobs will need a post-secondary education is they want to be a competitive candidate for the job.
  • Formal education is not all job applicants need to be competitive. Employers are attributing a labor shortage to employees who lack the most basic skills: coming to work on time, a willingness to work hard, a willingness to learn, basic communication and teamwork skills.  I see this as one of the easier education deficits to address.  These basic “life skills” can be easily integrated into middle and high school curriculum.
  • Focusing resources on high-demand, high-wage jobs targets less than 40% of projected job openings between now and 2016. Should we be re-examining our job training and education programs to make sure that they really meet the need out there?

For the record, I did end up playing RockBand as well.

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One response to “It’s Either This or Rockband

  1. Peter Korchnak May 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Dealing with stress should be part of job training. Considering the circumstances, putting out this post now is a feat in stress management and outward composure (unless it was scheduled before last week). So kudos and thank you; what a helpful overview of what is, will be, and need to be up with Oregon. Now for some stress-management lunch food.

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