Oregon jobs recovery lags in some rural areas
SALEM — Oregon now has more jobs than before the recession, but some rural areas are still lagging behind, according to the state economist.
After the financial crisis struck a decade ago, Oregon lost roughly 8 percent of its jobs, said Mark McMullen, the state economist.
Since then, the state has not only regained all those lost jobs but also increased the overall number by 6.5 percent from the pre-recession peak, he said during a Feb. 6 hearing before the House Committee on Economic Development and Trade.
However, McMullen said those gains haven't been felt equally by all regions of the state.
The Portland metropolitan area has seen the strongest recovery, with the number of jobs now 9 percent higher than before the recession.
There are now 7.5 percent more jobs in the Columbia Gorge, 6.8 percent more jobs in central Oregon and 3.3 percent more jobs in the Willamette Valley.
Jobs in southern Oregon contracted by roughly 12 percent during the recession, but the region now has 0.3 percent more jobs than before the crisis.
Northeast Oregon and the north coast haven't yet fully recovered, but the number of jobs is less than a half-percent lower than before the recession.
Southeast Oregon still has 4.7 percent fewer jobs from the pre-recession peak, while the south coast has 6.1 percent fewer jobs. These regions have seen worse times, though — both have recovered roughly half the jobs they lost during the recession.
Some counties are still seriously reeling from the downturn. Gilliam County has recovered only 10 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession, while Crook and Grant counties have recovered fewer than 30 percent.
The good news is that nearly 100 percent of Oregon counties are now gaining jobs rather than losing them, McMullen said.
The lone exception — Morrow County — is actually an economic success story, but has recently lost some jobs due to the completion of major construction projects, he said.
Oregon now has about two unemployed people per job opening, down from 11 people per open position in late 2009.
In terms of income, the top 20 percent of Oregon households are now making 6.7 percent more money than they were a decade ago, adjusted for inflation, he said. Inflation-adjusted incomes are about 1 percent lower among the middle 20 percent of households and 7 percent lower among the bottom 20 percent.
Oregon is the 12th most trade-dependent state in the U.S., he said. Computer and electronic equipment lead the way in exports, followed by heavy manufactured products such as metal and machinery, then agricultural goods and forestry products.
China is the major destination for Oregon exports, followed by Canada, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea.
Exports from Oregon are now facing a headwind due to the high value of the dollar compared to other currencies, which makes our products more expensive in foreign markets.
"It hasn't been this strong since 2000," McMullen said. "It's putting downward pressure on the demand for our exports."