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Unbalanced Growth in Oregon: Two and a Half Years after the Great Recession
by Barbara E Peniston
Published Mar-8-2013

This article is an update of one that was published in October 2011, Unbalanced Growth in Oregon: Five Quarters After the Great Recession. The underlying analysis revealed dramatic differences between the patterns of job losses and growth during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. Of all the private-sector jobs that were lost during the 2008 recession, only about 15 percent had been accounted for by job gains five quarters into the recovery. In contrast, the percent job recovery rate after an equal amount of time following the 2001 recession was about 60 percent.

During these past two recessions, disparities were also observed in job losses and growth by industry wage level. Higher- and mid-wage industries together constituted 68 percent of all job losses during the 2001 recession and 73 percent of the job growth during the first five quarters of recovery. During the 2008 recession, these two broad wage categories accounted for nearly 60 percent of total job losses, but little more than 31 percent of job growth in the first five quarters of subsequent expansion.

How did the job growth picture appear in the second quarter of 2012 - fully two and a half years after the great recession? Were more higher- and mid-wage jobs added? How does this picture compare with a snapshot of growth taken two and a half years after the 2001 recession?

Recession and Recovery: Job Loss and Growth in Oregon
The 2008 recession in Oregon, from the peak number of jobs in the first quarter of 2007 to the low in the third quarter of 2009, brought a seasonally adjusted loss of more than 220,000 private-sector jobs (Graph 1). Between the third quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2012, the private sector experienced a net gain of about 91,000 jobs. However, the second quarter 2012 total private-sector job count in Oregon was only 1.54 million, 6.6 percent lower than the first quarter 2007 peak of 1.65 million jobs. In contrast, total job losses during the 2001 recession (measured between the first quarter of 2001 and the second quarter of 2003) numbered only about 62,000; more than 143,000 jobs were gained during two and a half years of recovery and subsequent expansion after that earlier recession.

Which industries have been recovering after the 2008 recession and what are the wages they pay? How did the job loss and growth patterns of the 2001 recession compare with the 2008 recession? To answer these questions, the first quarter 2007 median hourly wage (inflation adjusted to 2010, using the Consumer Price Index) and seasonally adjusted number of private-sector jobs by quarter (first quarter 2001 to second quarter 2012) were determined for each of 84 detailed industries. The industries were sorted by median wage and divided into three groups (lower-wage, mid-wage, and higher-wage) so that each group had roughly the same total number of jobs. The job losses and job growth for each of these groups were then calculated and tracked over time.

By the second quarter of 2012, job growth had accounted for 41 percent of the private-sector losses during the 2008 recession. Graph 2 shows that higher- and mid-wage industries accounted for 59 percent of total job losses and 50 percent of job growth in the two and a half years of subsequent recovery. Lower-wage industries constituted 41 percent of the job losses and 50 percent of the growth in jobs. From another perspective, job gains represented 51 percent, 33 percent, and 37 percent, respectively, of the recessionary job losses in lower-, mid-, and higher-wage industries.

From the end of the original report (the fourth quarter of 2010) to the second quarter of 2012, there were significant gains in jobs. Prior to this period, growth in higher-wage industry jobs had been very slow to start; in fact, the fourth quarter of 2010 was the first to show a positive over-the-year change in the number of higher-wage jobs. By the second quarter of 2012, however, the ratio of higher-wage job losses to job gains shrunk dramatically, from 13.9 to one to 2.7 to one. Mid-wage industry jobs were also added at a much faster rate, decreasing the ratio of mid-wage jobs lost to jobs gained from 11.8 to one to 3.0 to one. Growth in lower-wage industry jobs also continued during the period and by the second quarter of 2012, the ratio of lower-wage wage jobs lost to job gains was down from 4.0 to one to 2.0 to one.

Despite continuous job growth, the recovery from the 2008 recession has progressed at a much slower pace than the recovery that followed the 2001 recession. In less than two years following the 2001 recession, the total number of jobs gained accounted for all that had been lost. In two years' time, the number lost in each of the industry wage categories were accounted for in job gains. In successive years, job growth continued. Two and a half years after the 2001 recession, the total number of jobs gained was 2.3 times the number lost (Graph 3). Gains in higher-wage industry jobs were 3.2 times the number lost. In contrast, two and a half years into the current recovery, the state has yet to regain the jobs lost in the 2008 recession.

Graph 1
Number of private-sector jobs in Oregon 1q2001 to 2q2012
Graph 2
Oregon private-sector job loss and job growth 2008 recession
Graph 3
Oregon private-sector job loss and job growth 2001 recession
This Oregon study originally drew inspiration from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) report, A Year of Unbalanced Growth: Industries, Wages, and the First 12 Months of Job Growth After the Great Recession. The NELP study demonstrated that there was a significant imbalance between where private-sector job losses and subsequent job growth occurred in the 2008 recession. Higher-wage industries constituted about 40 percent of job losses, but only 14 percent of recent job growth. Lower-wage industries comprised 23 percent of job losses and nearly 50 percent of all recent job growth. By comparison, after a comparable period of time following the 2001 recession, there was significantly more growth in higher-wage industries.

The results presented in this report are based entirely on the analysis of private-sector Oregon Unemployment Insurance wage records. Due to job churn captured in quarterly UI wage records, the counts of jobs and recessionary trends presented here differ from more commonly evaluated employment series. For more information on these data sources and this study, reference the full report on the Wages and Income page at QualityInfo.org.