Posted by: Josh Lehner | March 12, 2012

Oregon County Employment

  • Since hitting bottom Oregon employment has increased approximately 30,000
  • Nearly all of this improvement has taken place in the Portland MSA
  • Many rural counties have seen no job gains and have even continued to lose jobs

This morning the Oregon Employment Department released county employment data for January 2012, along with revisions to 2011. A clear trend is that the economic recovery has been uneven across the state. At the national level, the majority of employment growth has taken place in urban areas with more rural areas seeing a weaker recovery, or none at all. One of the reasons for this dichotomy is that the large urban areas tend to have more diversified economies and industry structure. As discussed previously on the blog, the two main drags on this recovery have been housing related industries and government. In larger counties housing and government account for a smaller share of overall employment with other industries better able to offset their weakness.

The map below illustrates employment gains by county since December 2009. To smooth the noisy month-to-month county data, a three month moving average is used to help diagnosis the underlying trends. December 2009 is when statewide employment reached its low point this business cycle and since then has generally trended upward. It becomes abundantly clear that the vast majority of the employment gains have taken place in the Portland MSA and predominantly in just Multnomah and Washington counties.

Clearly the statewide figures mask the geographic distribution of employment in Oregon and large swaths of Oregonians have missed out on the recovery to date, even as meager as it has been. 19 of Oregon’s 36 counties have continued to see job declines over the past two years while only 6 counties (Benton, Hood River, Morrow, Multnomah, Sherman, Washington) have seen job gains, in percentage terms, greater than the statewide average.

In the coming days I will have a series of reports on the different regions of the state (9 in total). Included in this work will be historical employment growth (data back to 1976), regional employment loss by recession graphs and regional location quotients. Stay tuned for more information.

Note that using monthly data, statewide total nonfarm employment has increased 33,200 since December 2009 however on a 3 month moving average basis the increase is only 29,300.

UPDATE: It is important to point out two items which were brought to my attention. First, the data used is seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment. The Oregon Employment Department does not release official seasonally adjusted county data, however our office seasonally adjusts it on our own using X12. Second, Salem MSA data is reported as a combination of Polk and Marion counties and these counties are not reported individually. In the map above, Polk + Marion is down 2,000 since December 2009, however each county is not down 2,000 on its own.

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