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Oregon's quality of life, in-migration and rising number of tech firms contribute to sector's growth locally

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Mike Riley of Riley Research AssociatesCompanies looking to hire a market research firm or consultant would do well to start the search early, prepare for the process to take longer due to demand and expect to pay more than they may have budgeted.

The reason? Market research is the fastest-growing job market in the country right now.

The sector, which employed 595,400 people in 2016, is expected to grow by another 138,300 jobs by 2026. That 23 percent increase is much faster than the average for all other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS notes that market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They also help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them and at what price. Future employment growth will be driven by an increased use of data and market research across all industries, the agency states.

While a master's degree is sometimes required, many market research jobs only require a bachelor's degree. The national median pay for these jobs last year was $63,120 per year, or $30.35 an hour. Oregon employs more than 7,000 market research analysts and the annual mean wage is $72,170.

Since starting Riley Research Associates in 1989, Mike Riley, president and research director, said the industry has grown and evolved because of growing acceptance of the value of research. Market research uses both digital and traditional methods, and "new methods for targeting select groups of people — especially diverse opt-in online panels."

Riley credits Oregon's quality of life and in-migration with the sector's growth locally as well as the rising number of tech firms.

"Health care, sports and government are also growing. I've noted a lot of people moving here, including an increasing number of marketing professionals choosing to live here while working everywhere. Many professionals choose to live here," he said.

The state's Office of Economic Analysis states that, due to in-migration, only about one in three adults in Oregon were actually born here. While migration is slowing, it is still a key driver in the state's population expansion. People of all age groups continue to move to Oregon, with 20- and 30-somethings accounting for the lion's share. The office notes that it pays particular attention to those in their "root-setting years," when most people begin their careers in earnest, settle down, get married, have kids and buy a home.

"This matters economically because the 20- and 30-somethings represent an influx of young, skilled labor for local businesses to hire and grow their operations," Josh Lehner, state economist, wrote in his July 11 report.

Noting that the national job market for market research analysts is very tight, Reeve Associates, based in Austin, Texas, advises employers to expect to pay $10,000 to $20,000 beyond most salary ranges for highly qualified candidates. They should also expect delays in hiring due to demand and start the hiring process well in advance of the start date for the position. In addition, employers should look to freelance market research consultants to fill positions until "the perfect fit" can be hired, the firm advises.

U.S. News & World Report ranked market research as the 11th best business job in its most recent ranking, and notes the unemployment rate within the sector is 3.8 percent. Its ranking also states that while opportunities for advancement and salary are high, the stress level associated with working as a market research analyst is high. The potential for job flexibility, such as an alternative work schedule and good work-life balance, are below average.

"Our industry has changed so much even in the last five years," Ted Donnelly, chairman for the Marketing Research Association's national board of directors and managing director for the market research and focus group firm Baltimore Research, said in the report. "We have so many tools in the tool kit."

One of those new tools is geofencing, which uses GPS or similar technology to construct a virtual fence around a business and deliver targeted advertisements to a customer's phone as he or she walks through a store. Eyetracking, which monitors how a person's eye travels around a website, is another technology market research professionals now use, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Melody Finnemore is a contract writer who regularly contributes to the Business Tribune. She can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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