Oregon gains jobs, not equally by region

2 job-seekers in state per opening; in ’09, that number was 11

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon has more jobs than before the Great Recession, but some rural areas are still behind, according to the state economist.

In the financial crisis a decade ago, Oregon lost roughly 8 percent of its jobs, said Mark McMullen, the state economist. Since then, the state has not only regained all those lost jobs but also increased the overall number by 6.5 percent from the pre-recession peak, he said at a hearing this week before the House Committee on Economic Development and Trade.

However, McMullen said, the gains haven’t touched all regions of the state equally.

The Portland metro area has seen the strongest recovery, with the number of jobs now 9 percent higher than before the recession.

There are now 7.5 percent more jobs in the Columbia Gorge, 6.8 percent more jobs in Central Oregon and 3.3 percent more jobs in the Willamette Valley.

Jobs contracted in southern Oregon by about 12 percent during the recession, but the region now has 0.3 percent more jobs than before the crisis.

Northeast Oregon and the North Coast haven’t yet fully recovered, but the number of jobs is less than a half-percent lower than before the recession.

Southeast Oregon has 4.7 percent fewer jobs than at the pre-recession peak; the South Coast has 6.1 percent fewer. Both have recovered roughly half the jobs they lost in the recession.

Some counties are still seriously reeling. Gilliam County has recovered only 10 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession; Crook and Grant counties recovered fewer than 30 percent.

The good news is that nearly 100 percent of Oregon counties are now gaining jobs rather than losing them, McMullen said.

The lone exception — Morrow County — is actually an economic success story, but has recently lost some jobs as major construction projects wrapped up, he said.

Oregon now has about 2 unemployed people per job opening, down from 11 in late 2009.

In terms of income, the top 20 percent of Oregon households are now making 6.7 percent more money than a decade ago, adjusted for inflation, he said. Inflation-adjusted incomes are about 1 percent lower among the middle 20 percent of households and 7 percent lower among the bottom 20 percent.

Oregon is the 12th-most trade-dependent state in the U.S., he said. Computer and electronic equipment lead in exports, followed by heavy manufactured products such as metal and machinery, then agricultural goods and forestry products.

China is the top destination for Oregon exports, followed by Canada, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea.

Exports face a headwind due to the high value of the U.S. dollar compared to other currencies, which makes U.S. products more expensive abroad.

“It hasn’t been this strong since 2000,” McMullen said. “It’s putting downward pressure on the demand for our exports.”