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Oregon Semiconductor Industry Shrinks 5% After Years of Growth

The state’s computer chip industry cut nearly 2,000 jobs last year, after hitting its highest point in more than two decades at the end of 2022 with 35,100 jobs.

Oregon’s computer chip industry shed nearly 2,000 jobs last year as the industry contracted after two years of robust growth.

It’s not clear which companies, specifically, reduced their local work forces in 2023. The job losses came even as the industry began securing state and federal subsidies to expand their factories – underscoring the complex dynamics around offering government support to a vital but highly cyclical industry.

Oregon’s semiconductor employment hit its highest point in more than two decades at the end of 2022, peaking at 35,100 jobs. Many thousands more work for suppliers and contractors who help the state’s chipmakers build their factories and maintain their production tools.

The industry boomed in the pandemic’s aftermath amid soaring demand for PCs and for the chips that run cars, appliances and many other products.

A glut of PCs and other products severely reduced demand last year and chipmakers around the country cut jobs. State economist Josh Lehner noted last month that Oregon accounted for an outsized share of the industry’s job losses.

Oregon law does not allow the state to disclose how many people private companies employ, so there’s no way to know for sure who was cutting jobs last year — only that the overall workforce declined by more than 5 percent.

Intel announced successive layoffs and billions of dollars in cost cuts to shore up the company’s bottom line. Lam Research, which operates large factories in Tualatin and Sherwood, announced plans a year ago to reduce its global workforce by 7 percent.

Neither company specified how many Oregon jobs they eliminated, though, and it seems doubtful that that Intel and Lam could account for all the losses showing up in the state employment data.

A 7 percent layoff at Lam Research, if distributed evenly across the company’s work sites, would have resulted in a layoff of roughly 300 Oregon workers. And Intel says that despite last year’s layoffs it continued hiring for other positions throughout 2023.

Intel said it began growing its global workforce again last fall and says it added 1,000 net Oregon jobs during 2023, growing its Washington County workforce to 23,000. New positions evidently outnumbered however many it eliminated through layoffs.

“We remain committed to Oregon as one of our key U.S. manufacturing sites,” Intel said in a written statement. The company said it has 500 positions now open in Oregon (though some of those could be filled by hiring workers at other sites).

State economic officials expect Oregon’s chip industry will grow by nearly 20 percent over the next several years, buoyed by a renewed focus on domestic semiconductor production and state and federal subsidies.

The federal government is in the process of allocating $52 billion in support for big chipmakers, and Oregon awarded $240 million in September to 15 companies planning to expand their local operations.

Last year’s contraction is a reminder that the semiconductor industry doesn’t move in a straight line. If there are good times ahead, there will surely be stumbles along the way.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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