Finding work in Portland
Updated 2021-08-03 13:32

As a mid-sized city on the west coast, Portland is home to a thriving economy and diverse array of industries. Steel and manufacturing, technology, transportation, and healthcare are some of its most important job markets. Portland is also home to a niche cluster of businesses that design outdoor and athletic apparel, anchored by the global headquarters of Nike.

Portland has become a very popular city in recent years. It is clean and green, there's no state sales tax, and it is home to a diverse group of microbreweries and a creative food scene.

However, job-seeking expats should also be aware of potential challenges. Some economists project that the job market may not be able to keep pace with the influx of new residents. Additionally, city growth has resulted in a steep incline of housing costs.


Anyone wanting to work in the U.S. is required to have a work visa and it can be one of the biggest challenges faced by expats looking for employment abroad. The process must be initiated by a sponsoring employer and is time-consuming and expensive. This means you must have an offer of employment before you may begin the visa application process. That said, expats with advanced degrees, specialized skills and who are fluent English speakers will fare better than most when it comes to finding an employer willing to go through the sponsorship process. See the article 'Work visa in the USA' for more information about types of work visas in the United States.

Popular industries in Portland

Trade, manufacturing, government and other sectors do provide a lot of people in the city with stable job options. With that, today, most people come to Portland for opportunities in tech, health and sports.

High-tech sector

Big names like Intel and Tektronix, smaller local companies and a steady migration from Silicon Valley have formed a strong high-tech base in the city leading to the appearance of Portland's famous “Silicon Forest”.

Close proximity to California has made for an easy transition from those coming from the Valley -— with substantially cheaper housing and a much lower cost of living driving the move. What's more, Portland's Silicon Forest boasts a strong focus on work-life balance — with over 7% of those in the tech sector working from home.

Green technologies also offer a lot of jobs. Portland is all about sustainability and low-impact living. In fact, half of the city's power is generated from renewable sources; at least a quarter of the workforce consistently commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation and most of the waste is composted.


Oregon Health & Science University counts over 15,000 employees. Additionally, hospitals, private companies and public agencies are all committed to the development of the bioscience sector.

Four of the top employers in the region are hospitals or healthcare providers: Oregon Health & Science University, Providence Health, Legacy Health and Kaiser Permanente.

Sporting goods

A lot of professionals in Portland and nearby areas work in marketing, design and customer service for big outdoor athletic companies. Nike World Headquarters are based in Beaverton, just 7 miles west of Portland. Other names include Adidas, Columbia, Keen and Under Armor.

Steel production

This sector has long been the most important industry, which has left Portland well connected to the rest of the country through its network of railways, highways, and both air and water shipping facilities. Large steel producers, including Oregon Steel Mills and Schnitzer Steel Industries, remain important contributors to the local economy.

Metal products

Steel production has attracted several large corporations that manufacture different metal products. The biggest of these are Precision Castparts Corp., Boeing, Northwest Pipe Company, and Greenbrier.


The Port of Portland is one of the largest dry-docks in the country and the third busiest port on the west coast. Automaker Daimler Trucks is also headquartered in Portland.

Labor market

Over the past several years Portland's economy has flourished — but the city, just like many others in the US, is still battling the effects of the 2019 COVID pandemic. As of February 2021, the unemployment rate in the city stood at 6.4%. The fastest-growing industries in the city include the high tech sector, outdoor athletic apparel, wholesale, healthcare and others.

As the city was hit hard by the housing recession, sectors maintaining negative growth are construction and wood products.

Read 'Labour market in the US' for more information.

Finding a job

Local resources are the best place to begin your employment search. Use job search engines that are specifically focused on the Portland area and check local newspapers such as The Oregonian (these are online as well). If you belong to a specialized or in-demand industry, research and contact a local recruiting agency to build connections. Additionally, leverage your personal network and membership in professional organizations as this is the best way to hear about newly listed or unadvertised jobs.

When sending out your resume (CV), you really must stand out from the crowd. Besides updating your resume to reflect the American style, research the companies you're interested in thoroughly before you apply, so as to highlight the skills and experience that would most interest them. Also, make sure that your LinkedIn and business networking profiles reflect these same changes. See the article 'Finding a job in the USA' for more information about job searching.

Good to know:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a quarterly review of the Portland unemployment rate and labor market, which may be helpful with your job search. Additionally, a local state agency called Business Oregon posts information on employment, wages, and industry forecasts.

Useful links:

USCIS: working in the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Portland Summary
Business Oregon - Local Economic Data
The Oregonian Times Job Ads
Indeed - Portland Job Ads - Portland Job Ads

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.