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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 05 September 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- It's not that hard to find a job in Oregon. Landing one with good pay might take a little more effort.
Though the unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2000, wages have not been rising. The average 2006 wage in Oregon, $38,057, is lower than the average amount Oregonians earned in 2000 when adjusted for inflation. And Oregon's wages in 2006 were 11 percent below the national average, compared to 2000 when Oregon workers earned 8 percent less.
There's a simple explanation for the trend. The jobs that have been lost paid more than the jobs that have been created. The average pay in 2006, for jobs in categories that gained workers since 1990, is almost $1,000 a month less than the pay of job categories that lost workers during that period. That's according to an analysis of state employment statistics conducted by reporters at The Oregonian.
Stagnant wages wouldn't be much of a problem if prices were also flat. But the cost of gas, health care and housing has risen fast in recent years, leaving workers with two choices: cut back on spending or take on more debt.
``It's a worrying trend, there's no question about it,'' said Dae Baek, Oregon's acting state economist. ``If you want to move up, it's just getting harder and harder.''
The state's 2006-2016 employment projection by occupation being prepared for release this fall predicts service and administrative support occupations will add the most jobs. Both are among the lowest-paid job categories.
Of course, not all jobs being added in Oregon pay poorly.
Construction; professional, scientific and technical; finance and insurance; and health care all pay more than the state's average salary and all are in the state's top 10 list of growing occupations since 1990. Each is projected to be among the fastest-growing occupations in the next decade, said Art Ayre, the state employment economist.
Baby boomers retiring from high-paying jobs could also create opportunities for younger workers in the coming years. For example, Stimson Lumber Co. of Portland, with 1,300 employees and 12 mills, anticipates needing skilled millwrights and technicians to replace retirees. And those jobs pay almost $40,000.
``We're preparing for a retirement bubble,'' said Dan Sweeney, Stimson's vice president of human resources.

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