The most recent national recession lasted 18 months. It began in December 2007 and ended June 2009. A recession is only the downward part of a business cycle. It begins when the economy is as good as it's going to get and ends when it's as bad as it's going to get. An economy can still be in horrible shape when a recession ends and remain that way for years - but if it's not getting worse, it's not a recession. Unemployment is only one factor in determining if an economy is in a recession; gross domestic product, income, and employment are also considered.
Although the 18-month Great Recession was the longest since the Great Depression, the increase in coastal unemployment rates occurred in a shorter time. Rates didn't begin climbing until the spring of 2008 for most counties. Increases of stunning speed and magnitude followed. Unemployment rates jumped by half a percentage point each month during the summer and fall and doubled within a year. The increases slowed as the summer of 2009 approached and rates hit their peaks along the Oregon Coast pretty much at the same time the national recession was determined to be over, in June 2009. The nation's unemployment rate climbed another 0.6 percentage point and peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009 - four months after the recession was over.
Part of the reason is probably due to the causes of the recession. The bursting of the housing bubble and the financial collapse that ensued led to a general loss of confidence for investors and a broad restriction of credit by banks and other lenders. Since all industry sectors depend on investment and financing the recession hit all sectors and hit them at about the same time. Certainly some sectors were affected more than others. Construction and durable goods manufacturing suffered especially heavy losses in Oregon while private educational and health services added jobs right through the recession - albeit more slowly.
This contrasts somewhat with the High Tech Recession, which lasted eight months, beginning in March 2001 and ending November 2001. In Oregon, the High Tech recession was centered on the Portland metro area and, to a lesser extent, the Willamette Valley. Coastal counties were caught in the repercussions to the downturn, but their unemployment rates didn't increase as much as the statewide rate.
The High Tech Recession was also a double-dip recession are far as unemployment rates along the coast were concerned. Rates in most counties didn't hit their peaks until about a year and a half after the recession was officially over. This gave coastal economies a reputation of being slow to enter a recession and slow to recover. That reputation was not borne out in the Great Recession; unemployment trends for the coast paralleled the national trend.
In addition, geographic isolation seems to be a factor in the Coast's unemployment rates. The farther a coastal county is from the Portland metro area, the higher was its unemployment rate was during the recession. Transportation costs increase with distance and can put rural businesses at a cost disadvantage. For workers, large urban areas offer a greater diversity of jobs and an opportunity to work by commuting.
Since geography can be so important to an economy we should expect that businesses' ability to weather a recession varied by county, and it did. The relative loss of nonfarm payroll jobs followed the same pattern of increasing the farther south one looks. Clatsop County, in the north, lost 3.5 percent of its jobs from 2007 through 2009, Tillamook County lost 4.3 percent, Lincoln County shed 5.6 percent, Coos County dropped 8.4 percent and Curry County, in the south, lost 10.6 percent of its jobs.
Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln counties were partially sheltered from the recession by large, nondurable goods manufacturing businesses that maintained their employment. Their leisure and hospitality businesses, being closer to Portland, held up better than their southern counterparts. Construction lost employment in all counties, but southern counties lost more in financial services, an industry that includes mortgage lending and real estate.
Coos and Curry counties are more isolated from urban areas. Although their leisure and hospitality industries are proportionally smaller than those in Clatsop and Lincoln counties, they lost relatively more employment, perhaps due in part to the higher cost of travelling there. Both counties also had sizeable wood product manufacturing industries that were hit hard.
All the coastal counties have seasonal industries. Employment increases in the summer when tourism, fishing, and construction increase. The degree to which a county's employment is seasonal did not seem to influence its unemployment rate during the recession. The counties in order, from most to least, of degree of seasonal employment were: Clatsop, Lincoln, Curry, Tillamook, and Coos. This seasonal employment diminished during the recession. It seems that businesses are more likely to forgo hiring seasonal help when times are hard.