Sep 25, 2023 - News

Providence beats Intel as Portland area's biggest employer

Illustration of a red cross multiplying into many red crosses.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new ranking of Portland-area companies based on the number of people they employ put Providence Health & Services at the top for the first time, surpassing Intel.

Why it matters: While employment numbers at any company can rise or fall depending on many factors, identifying big employers also helps paint a picture of trends and needs in the region.

Details: The biggest employers list is put together annually by the Portland Business Journal.

  • While Intel was "the unchallenged leader of labor in the metro-area" for decades, PBJ data editor Brandon Sawyer wrote, it faced recent challenges, including layoffs, and saw no change in its overall employee number — 22,328 — this year.
  • Meanwhile, Providence added staff — in part due to the pandemic — and increased employee rolls by 17% over last year to 23,100.
  • Oregon Health & Sciences University ranked third, with 19,603 employees.

Between the lines: PBJ draws on public data when available for the rankings and also surveys private employers.

  • PBJ also expanded the geographic area where it tracks employment this year, adding three more rural counties to the four that make up the region's urban core.
  • Providence's hospital in more rural Yamhill County may account for part of its rise on the list.

Be smart: If the planned merger between OHSU and Legacy Health goes through, the new entity would be the largest regional employer by as many as 10,000 employees.

Context: Healthcare jobs make up about 12% of employment nationwide and in Oregon, according to federal statistics, and are expected to grow faster compared to other occupations in the coming decade.

The big picture: Strong companies can help build local industries, in what's called the cluster effect, Bret Marchant, director of data and research at Greater Portland Inc., tells Axios.

  • "A company may know they can succeed here because other companies like them are here and are able to access talent" or industry-specific expertise, Marchant said.
  • He pointed to Nike, whose presence helped spawn a larger shoe and outdoor apparel industry here, as a prime example.
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