Posted by: Josh Lehner | March 11, 2011

Relative Employment Rankings, A Graphical Update

Continuing the discussion from yesterday’s post regarding Oregon’s relative employment ranking, the following graphs provide more context. This first graph shows all states including Washington D.C. and the U.S. overall’s year-over-year employment change. To simplify the graph, nearly all states are colored grey, however Oregon (red), Washington (blue) and the U.S. total (black) are highlighted to show their relative positions over time.

Oregon’s employment declines began about the same time as the U.S. overall, while Washington’s employment remained positive for a longer time period. Now that employment is improving, Oregon’s recent gains are now slightly larger than the U.S. overall, while Washington’s are slightly weaker. The second graph shows both Oregon’s and Washington’s relative employment ranking over the 2006 – Jan 2011 time period. Note that a ranking of 1 represents the strongest employment growth, so a lower numbered ranking is best.

The contrast between the two states is interesting. Obviously Oregon’s job losses started before Washington’s, thus Oregon’s ranking fell quickly and substantially during the mid-2007 through late-2008 time period. Oregon went from being one of the top 10 strongest employment states in 2006 and early 2007, to being one of the worst 5 for much of 2009. However, Oregon’s relative employment ranking has improved since the beginning of 2010 and currently, Oregon is in the top 14 for both Dec 2010 and Jan 2011.

While the relative rankings are useful, the real questions surround the issues of how many actual jobs are there, how many were lost due to the recession, etc. The following graph illustrates the toll the recession had on each state’s employment. This is measured as the percentage of jobs lost from each state’s employment peak to each state’s employment trough. For example, in Oregon our employment peaked in February, 2008 with 1,739,200 jobs. Oregon then basically lost jobs through December, 2009 when the state had 1,591,100 jobs. That loss of 148,100 jobs represents a decline of 8.52 percent. Compared to other states and Washington D.C., Oregon’s job loss during the recession was the 8th most, or the 44th best performing state. The nation overall lost 6.34 percent of all jobs.

Given that the technical recession is over and employment in most states has begun to grow again, how is each state’s employment performing? The graph below shows the employment gain for each state from their respective employment trough through the latest available data, January 2011. Continuing the Oregon example shows that since Oregon’s employment low point, or trough, in December 2009, the state has seen employment rise to 1,614,800 in January 2011. That increase of 23,700 jobs represents a 1.49 percent increase, which ranks 15th best nationally. The nation overall has seen an increase of 0.83 percent. Note that the states on the far right that show 0 percent gains are currently at their respective employment troughs. That is, they have yet to reach a defined low point and thus, have yet to see sustained employment gains.

This pattern for Oregon is not unexpected as the state’s employment is more volatile than the nation’s over the business cycle. Oregon experienced the 8th largest decline in employment, and so far we’re seeing the 15th strongest employment gains – keep in mind we are still early in the recovery. Over the course of the expansion phase, we are expecting Oregon to outperform the average state and see gains that rank in the top 10 or top 20 overall.


  1. […] raw data so I could see more details from the other states. I did find a couple of charts from an Oregon website. In looking at the charts do keep in mind the point Mr Moore […]

  2. […] relative ranking through March. The following graphs provide a quick update on previous posts which show how Oregon’s employment has fared relative to all other states over the past few […]

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