Oregon's middle-class jobs base is shrinking

Oregon's middle-class jobs base is shrinking

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by Joe Smith, KGW Business Reporter

kgw.com

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 7:16 PM

PORTLAND -- Oregon's job base is changing. While lower and higher paying jobs are being added, middle-class wages are shrinking.

It’s called ‘job polarization’ and it's been the trend across the country for the last few decades. Oregon is now feeling more of the effects.

Work that paid typical middle-class wages including blue-collar, factory, repair and office jobs with salaries $25,000 to $50,000 a year are vanishing.

Technology and outsourcing are the driving forces behind the shift. Software is helping companies produce more with fewer people and those that are working are expected to do more.

Oregon's higher-paying jobs base is up by 7 percent, beating the national average of about 5 percent; while lower-paying jobs are coming back faster here than in the rest of the nation.

“You want to have job opportunities and income levels for the entire spectrum of society,” said Josh Lehner, a senior economist for the State of Oregon. “You want to make sure people can support their family, have a decent lifestyle and a living wage.”

Shrinking middle-class jobs are now the norm. In 1980, those jobs accounted for nearly 70 percent of all Oregon jobs. Today, it's down to 60 percent.

Lehner said the biggest misconception is that more jobs in Oregon are being added on the low-wage end, when in fact the state’s economy is adding more higher-paying jobs.

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