Posted by: Josh Lehner | July 21, 2017

Eugene in Perspective (Graph of the Week)

We’re down in Eugene for some meetings with local businesses as part of our annual get-out-of-Salem trip with the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. Once per year our group visits a city around the state to learn more about the local economy and enjoy different parts of our beautiful state. I will follow up soon with some of the information we learn but for now wanted to post a few quick thoughts.

Let’s take a quick look at the Eugene MSA (Lane County) and its economic growth over the past 35 years. The region has been through a lot and yet has proved resilient to massive shifts. The Changing of the Guard has had a huge impact here locally. And yet, Eugene overall has kept pace not only with other metros that have a similarly built economy but also with all metros around the country.

What I did earlier this year for a few Eugene-specific outlook talks was look at the detailed industrial structure of all US metro areas from the 1980 Census, using the current MSA definitions as best I could. Then I found those that had the greatest similarity to Eugene’s industrial structure back then. You can see the list on the left below. I then tracked employment across all the metros in the past 35 years. Turns out Eugene is pretty typical or essentially the median metro among this group. I don’t show the actual median among the group because the chart gets messy with overlapping lines and the US total metro makes more intuitive sense to me at least. And the simple fact the group median and US total metro are nearly identical.

Here you can see the massive impact of the early 1980s recession on Eugene — and the rest of Oregon too of course. However, following the timber industry restructuring of the 80s, strong growth returned and Eugene caught back up by the late 1990s and was above the majority of other metros by the mid-2000s.

In recent years Eugene has once again undergone a massive restructuring, not totally unlike the early 1980s. The region lost 40% or so of its manufacturing jobs and those are mostly permanent losses (RV industry and the tech chip plant chief among them). However all other sectors have regained their employment peak and the region is growing. 2016 was another good year of growth, closing the gap relative to the typical metro. And more importantly household income are rising again. Eugene is proving resilient once again.

Finally, among the peer metros, it is true that both Boise and Houston have pulled away from the pack. This means they skew the blue portion of the chart upward. However Eugene outperforms most of the rest. 


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  1. […] Source: Eugene in Perspective (Graph of the Week) | Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]


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