Oregon Labor Market Information System
Bookmark and Share
Population Growth Picked Up in 2012
by Gail Krumenauer
Published Jan-22-2013

After five years of positive but progressively slower growth, Oregon's population growth gained some momentum in 2012. The state's most recent peak in year-to-year population growth (1.6%) occurred in 2006. In 2007, population growth totaled 1.2 percent. Throughout and beyond the 2007 to 2009 recession, growth remained positive but continued to taper off; population gains hit a low of 0.5 percent in 2011. Last year marked the first uptick in population growth, as Oregon's population grew by 0.7 percent in 2012.

Metropolitan Populations Grew at Varied Rates
The Oregon portion of the Portland metropolitan area - which includes Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, and Yamhill counties - followed the same population trend as Oregon in recent years, but consistently outpaced Oregon's growth rate (Graph 1). The state's other metropolitan areas showed more mixed results.

Corvallis and Salem generally kept with the statewide trend of slower year-to-year growth from 2007 through 2011, followed by an upturn in population growth in 2012. Corvallis fell below the statewide population growth rate each year. Salem's population showed slower growth than Oregon at its most recent peak in 2006. Although growth pared down from one year to the next, the population slowdown was less pronounced in the capital region, resulting in annual growth rates above Oregon's each year from 2009 to 2011. Salem's population bump in 2012 (0.8%) also edged out Oregon's.

Population growth rates in Bend far outpaced all other areas of the state from 2006 to 2009. At its peak in 2006, the then-booming Central Oregon population hub grew by 5.7 percent. Bend also followed along the declining growth trend in successive years, but population gains plummeted faster and bottomed out below the state's at 0.4 percent in 2010. Despite the region's continued economic sluggishness, Bend's population gains outperformed Oregon again in 2011 and 2012, although not at the large rates seen leading up to the recession.

Unlike Oregon and the other metropolitan areas, both Eugene and Medford showed straight-line population growth of 0.3 percent each year in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Eugene's population growth fell below Oregon's each year since 2006. Medford, on the other hand, showed stronger population growth than Oregon statewide in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Graph 1
Population growth often fastest in Portland, Bend, and Salem metros 2008-2012
A Twist on the Tale of Growth
At first glance, Oregon's non-metropolitan areas share the same overarching population story: growth peaked most recently in 2006, stayed positive but scaled down in successive years, and gave a stronger showing in 2012. The non-metro gains were smaller than those for Oregon and metropolitan areas, but the general trend held. Before we close the book on this tale of recovering population growth though, let's take a look at places where the story looked quite different in recent years.

Some non-metro counties countered the population growth picture painted thus far. At the peak population growth time for many areas in 2006, Sherman County lost 1.1 percent of its residents, Grant County's population declined by 0.8 percent, and Malheur County had a population decline of 0.4 percent. While no county in any metropolitan area showed a decline in population in any year between 2006 and 2012, the number of non-metro counties with population declines ranged from six to 12 in any given year. Annual population declines occurred in all but one year between 2006 and 2012 in Harney and Wheeler counties (Table 1). Several other counties along the Columbia Gorge, in Eastern Oregon, and along the South Coast also saw more years with population declines than years with gains.

Table 1
Oregon Counties With Annual Population Declines, 2006 to 2012
County Occurrences
Harney 6
Wheeler 6
Gilliam 5
Grant 5
Sherman 5
Wallowa 5
Baker 4
Coos 4
Crook 4
Curry 4
Malheur 3
Lake 2
Morrow 2
Tillamook 1
Source: Portland State University, Population Research Center
In 2012, the rate of population growth accelerated for the first time since 2006 in most areas of Oregon. While the state, its metro areas, and the non-metropolitan portion of Oregon consistently posted population gains in recent years, growth was not universal. Fourteen counties - all in non-metro areas - experienced at least one annual population decline between 2006 and 2012.

About the Data
The Population Research Center at Portland State University prepares annual population estimates for Oregon, its counties, and incorporated cities and towns as of July 1 each year. These estimates serve as the official population numbers between each decennial census, and are used to disburse state revenues to Oregon counties and cities.

Detailed population tables for 2012 and prior years are available at www.pdx.edu/prc/population-estimates-0