The Oregon Employment Department released new and revised county level employment data yesterday. While it brought good news to most counties — particularly in the form of revisions — it also highlights the uneven nature of the recovery in the state. The state’s metropolitan areas were revised upward and are now adding jobs today at nearly the same rate as back in 2006. The state’s nonmetro areas have been adding jobs for the past 2-3 years, and while the rate of growth continues to improve, it is just now about half of that experienced during the housing boom.
The first graph below illustrates these trends. In particular the non-Portland metros in Oregon have really accelerated in the past year. Growth has returned in full force to Bend, Eugene and Salem. Jackson County (Medford) is the state’s median county in terms of jobs regained so far in recovery and is growing in-line to a little bit faster than the typical county. Growth rates in Corvallis are currently low but the county is at or near an all-time high in employment and fully regained all its recessionary losses.
Where the differences are more apparent is at the individual county level. This graph shows Great Recession job losses along the horizontal axis (how far a county fell), and then the share of all those lost jobs that have been regained as of last month on the vertical axis. By and large, the areas of the state that took an above average hit during the recession, have added back the fewest share of jobs – Deschutes being the outlier. Conversely, the areas of the state that took an average to below average hit, have regained the most jobs.
In terms of regional economies within the state, only the Columbia Gorge and Portland MSA have fully regained their pre-recession levels of employment. Thus it is no surprise to see many of these counties at or near the 100% line. As the Willamette Valley’s growth has accelerated recently, the next tier of counties are many of the state’s metropolitan areas. The regions that continue to experience slow gains are the smaller, more rural counties of the state, particularly in Southern and Eastern Oregon. As our office began highlighting back in 2011, much of the regional disparities can be largely attributed to housing and government — two industries important for smaller and rural areas and two that have been particularly hard hit since 2007. Additionally, growth across the U.S. has been strongest among the largest metropolitan areas, however as housing and government continue to improve, more areas are participating in the recovery.
In each quarterly forecast document, our office focuses on one or two regional economies across the state. See here for the latest from each region. This quarter — released next Wednesday — we will be updating the Columbia Gorge and Central Oregon regions. Both of which are good news stories today. The Gorge has outperformed all other areas of the state and Central Oregon (Bend in particular) is currently growing extremely fast in the past two years, following 3 years of essentially no growth from 2009-2012. Stay tuned for more.