Finding a job in Portland
Updated 2023-10-04 07:39

A mid-sized city on the West Coast, Portland is home to a thriving economy and a 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.

In recent years, Portland has become a very popular city. 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. Covid-19 has impacted the labor market all over North America, and although many cities are getting back on their feet, there are still some lingering after-effects. However, Portland and other urban areas have weathered these changes better than many areas in the state.


Anyone wanting to work in the US 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 and specialized skills who are fluent English speakers will fare better than most when it comes to finding an employer willing to go through the sponsorship process.

Popular industries in Portland

Trade, manufacturing, government, and other sectors provide a lot of people in the city with stable job options. However, many expats come to Portland seeking work opportunities in tech and the green technology industries.

Technology and software

Big names like Intel and Tektronix, smaller local companies, and a steady migration from Silicon Valley have formed a strong tech scene 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.

Sustainable and clean technology

Portland has a generally green and environmentally conscious image. Composting, cycling, ride-sharing, and other sustainable practices are all pretty common here. In keeping with this ethos, the city promotes renewable energy and green initiatives. This has led to the growth of companies focused on sustainable energy, clean technology, and environmental solutions. Job opportunities in this sector include renewable energy engineers, sustainability consultants, and environmental analysts.


The healthcare industry is a significant employer in Portland, with over 206,000 people currently employed by the wider healthcare industry.  The city has several renowned hospitals and medical centers, including Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Providence Health & Services, and Legacy Health. Job roles in healthcare vary from physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to medical technologists, therapists, and administrators.

Apparel and outdoor recreation

It makes sense that Portland has a strong presence in the apparel and outdoor recreation industry – the city is known for its active and outdoor-oriented lifestyle, and many popular outdoor brands are headquartered or have a significant presence there. Companies like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, and Keen Footwear provide employment opportunities in design, manufacturing, marketing, and retail. Newer brands like Poler and Nau also set up shop in the city.

Production, manufacturing, and transport

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. The presence of steel has also attracted several large corporations that manufacture different metal products. Precision Castparts Corp., Boeing, Northwest Pipe Company, and Greenbrier are the biggest of these. The amount of manufacturing also contributes to the strength of the transportation industry; 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.

The labor market in Portland

Over the past decades, 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. However, things are not all doom and gloom. The Oregon Employment Department forecasts that the state will add around 300,000 jobs by 2030, representing a growth rate of approximately 17%, which is slightly lower than the robust 21% growth seen in the previous decade. However, the job growth will not be evenly distributed across the state, and it will be the Bend and Portland areas that will boom, with the tri-county Portland area alone accounting for more than half of all new jobs in the state over the next decade.

Finding a job in Portland

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 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 CV to reflect the American style, research the companies you're interested in thoroughly before you apply to highlight the skills and experience that would most interest them. Also, ensure 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

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.