Population Growth, Educational Attainment, and Projected Job Openings in the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

by Nicole Ramos

November 10, 2022

Shortly after the 2007-2008 recession, the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) population declined by approximately 4,500 individuals. Since then, the population has been increasing steadily, albeit at a decreasing rate. In 2021, according to the recently published data by the American Community Survey (ACS), there were 436,000 individuals living in the Salem MSA, a plurality of whom (38%) were considered of prime working age (that is, between 25 and 54 years of age). Those aged 25 to 34 made up the largest group under 65, representing 14% of the total Salem MSA population, followed closely by those aged 35 to 44 (13%).

Another 36% of those living in the Salem MSA are of retirement age, close to retirement age, or unlikely to be in the workforce due to age. Specifically, 17% are 65 years of age or older and already of retirement age or nearing it, while another 19% are 14 years of age or younger and unlikely to work – 14 being the minimum age at which a minor can work in Oregon.


As the Salem MSA population grows, so does educational attainment, but not only in numbers. The proportion of Salem MSA residents with some sort of educational attainment has been on the rise, while the share of residents with less than a high school education has been declining. In 2017, those with less than a high school diploma made up 15% of the population 25 years or older, and by 2021, this had dropped three percentage points to 12%. Of those 25 years or older (291,000 individuals), approximately 88% have graduated with a high school diploma (or equivalent) or higher.

However, educational attainment in the Salem MSA is not distributed evenly. More than half of individuals 25 years or older have not attained a degree past high school or its equivalent. Of those, many attended some college but did not graduate with a degree (27%). That said, higher educational attainment is on the rise. In 2021, 37% of individuals 25 years or older in the Salem MSA had attained an associate’s degree or higher, with 17% having attained a bachelor’s degree. For comparison, in 2017, it was 33% and 16%, respectively.

This information compares well against the Oregon Employment Department’s current employment projections. It is currently projected that 38% of average entry level job openings in the Mid-Valley region require a high school diploma, and another 37% require less than a high school diploma. Therefore, 75% of all entry-level job openings in the Mid-Valley region will require a high school diploma or less. For comparison, only 37% of the Salem MSA population 25 years or older has attained a high school diploma or less, while the rest, those who have attained some sort of higher education, has been on the rise. As is, most of the Salem MSA population 25 years or older is overqualified for these jobs.




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