This post continues with our occasional series on the regions within Oregon (see the new tab at the top of the page). Now that our regional focus in the quarterly forecast publication has one page updates for each region, on a rotating basis throughout the year, I will excerpt and post each one online. We covered Northeast Oregon and Southeast Oregon in the September forecast and will cover the Portland Metro and Willamette Valley in the December forecast document.
Forests, agriculture and formidable terrain cover much of this region that stretches east of the Cascades to the Idaho border and the Columbia River and Washington to the north. Covering nearly 20 percent of the state’s landmass, yet home to 3.7 percent of its population, the majority which live near or along I-84 in Hermiston (population 16,995), Pendleton (16,715), La Grande (13,110) and Baker City (9,890). The region’s dominant industries are highlighted by animal and agricultural related employment, in addition to key transportation sectors.
The region as a whole experienced a less severe Great Recession than the state with job losses of approximately 4 percent compared with the statewide average of nearly 8.5 percent. The unemployment rate spiked as job losses mounted, but not to the same degree as the state. However the labor market recovery that began in 2010 is now stalling locally and in recent months, job losses have returned and the unemployment rate is falling less quickly than statewide trends. Private sector growth in the past 12 months is negative in 4 of the 6 counties. While Grant and Wallowa are registering gains through July, growth rates are just 0.4 and 0.5 percent respectively, which are less than the statewide gains of 2.6 percent.
Northeast Oregon experienced a severe early 80s recession that took 10 years to fully regain the jobs, however the 1990 and 2001 recessions had only minor impacts on local employment. The region took a hit during the Great Recession, however only about half as large as the state overall, but has yet to really gain momentum so far in recovery.
This final graph has not been updated in a year or so but does show the longer run employment trends in the region relative to the state overall. Northeast Oregon had a tougher time recovering from the early 80s recession and thus had slower growth overall during the 1980s, however since then, employment in the region has largely kept pace with the statewide trends. While the region also largely missed out on the housing bubble, it means the severity of the Great Recession was less than in other regions.
For more information on Northeast Oregon please see the great work the Employment Department does, including monthly analysis. Specifically see Region 12 and Region 13 for more details on their website.