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.
The region varies considerably in both climate and industries as one heads east from the Cascades to the Idaho border in this southern swath of the state. To the west lies the majority of the population and nonfarm employment in Klamath. A large timber and related industries concentration in addition to tourism-related sectors play an important role and the county is home to the state’s only national park, Crater Lake. To the east the landscape opens up and the population becomes more sparse, until you hit the eastern edge of the state where another population base is located in Ontario in the Treasure Valley. Overall these four counties contain just under 3 percent of the state’s population, 35 percent of its landmass and nearly 15 percent of all agricultural sales.
Over the past year job growth has returned to three of the four counties with only Harney seeing losses. Somewhat unique to this expansion, much of the employment gains are in the goods-producing industries such as natural resources, construction and manufacturing, although each county differs slightly. Service sector jobs are growing less briskly, unlike overall trends in recent decades. Over the longer term, one would expect these trends to reverse, however in the short-run a cyclical rebound in these industries is welcomed and expected. In terms of growth rates, Lake and Malheur are growing the strongest at 2.3 and 1.2 percent respectively, while Klamath is effectively stable.
The region has undergone deeper recessions and/or taken a bit longer to recover than the state overall for each business cycle in the past 35 years. Today, the job losses from the Great Recession, relative to the same point in the business cycle as in the 80s, are worse than following the great timber restructuring back then. This pattern over each business cycle is similar to those seen in Southern Oregon and the South Coast, as discussed previously. The one except being the severity of the 2001 recession due to large losses in Klamath — and related to the drought at that time as well. The only two regions to suffer tough economic times in 2001 in the state were the Portland Metro with its concentration in high-tech and Southeast Oregon. All other regions only experienced a minor hiccup in economic growth.
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. Southeast Oregon, much like the other counties in the Southern portion of the state, had a tougher time recovering from the early 80s recession and has experienced slower growth over the past 35 years.
For more information on Southeast Oregon please see the great work the Employment Department does, including monthly analysis. Specifically see Region 11 and Region 14 for more details on their website.