Posted by: Josh Lehner | May 8, 2012

Where’s My Recovery?

Apologies for the dormant blog in the past few weeks. We’re busy working on the upcoming forecast – released Tuesday, May 22nd – and presentations for the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference next week. In-line with the recent research presented on the blog, with more still to come, one of my presentations will be on economic trends in Oregon and Washington over the past 4 years. The presentation will cover employment and income changes at the county level across both states. It also takes a look at industry structure across the region to access what impact it has on economic performance during the Great Recession. What follows is a very brief excerpt of just a few slides however the full set of slides are available here.

First up is a look at employment loss by county. One of the main themes is the varying degrees of economic performance across the two states. Generally speaking, the areas hit hardest by the housing bubble and bust experienced the worst recessions and most lackluster recoveries so far. The Columbia Gorge counties in both states, Tri-Cities, Washington and smaller college towns like Corvallis and Pullman experienced either much milder cycles or none at all.

The map on the left examines the percentage loss while the map on the right looks at the actual losses by job count. The regions that were hit the hardest this recession were Central and Southern Oregon, the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and then the major Western half of the state MSAs (Portland, Seattle, Eugene). In terms of job count losses, the metropolitan areas obviously dominate given these are the locations with the largest populations and jobs.

So far in recovery, most counties in Washington have seen some job gains, except the Olympic Peninsula, while Oregon’s experience is mixed. In terms of where the net job creation is taking place both Portland and Seattle dominate the total figures as discussed in a recent post. Southern Oregon and much of Eastern Oregon continue to see no real improvements in their employment levels, with many counties continuing to lose jobs in the past two years.

Another important economic aspect to look at is income. The maps below illustrate personal income changes by county, however these figures exclude transfer payments. Transfer payments are influenced by two major trends – demographics and the business cycle – that sometimes warrant exclusion when examining the underlying economic trends and structure. An overall similar pattern emerges across the different regions of the two states. Income tends to be more volatile than employment as a worker can have his or her hours cut back during recession, causing a decline in income, however if he or she does not lose the job outright, that represents no change in the employment statistics. Likewise in recovery, if hours worked increases, then income is also increasing even if the level of employment remains steady.

Finally, the last slide highlights some of the industries that are correlated with job losses and job gains so far this business cycle. It is important to remember that correlation alone does not equal causation. The full set of slides has numerous maps that show location quotients by county for Natural Resources, Wood Products, Construction, Professional and Business Services, Leisure and Hospitality, and State and Local Government.

To download the full set of slides click here.


  1. […] regional employment trends. This is taken from previous research shown on this blog (see HERE and HERE). It’s important to note that many of the more rural areas not only had concentrations in […]

  2. […] and has also detailed regional employment trends over the business cycle, see here, here and here. However we have yet to tackle the regional unemployment trends, that is until now. Since their […]

  3. […] of the state, particularly during the recession and so far into this recovery (see HERE, HERE and HERE for some examples) and also the demographic outlook (see HERE and also the slides and discussion […]

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