Dying is a pretty strong word, so for this Oregon-specific analysis we will analyze a number of employment, demographic and population statistics that attempt to quantify Oregon's critical-condition counties. Let's take a look at these factors, covering the period from 2002 to 2012, to provide an overall health assessment:
- Total nonfarm payroll change
- Total population change
- Natural increase in population
- Population change for the 18 to 34 year-old age group
Each of these factors are weighted equally, and each county is assigned a point based on its place on the ranked list. For example, the county with the most job growth would get the most points, while the county with the least job growth, or greatest decline, would earn one point. Total points will be summed to rank Oregon's critical-condition counties.
Of course, there are always side-effects when an area experiences change. Growing economies can outstrip the supply of housing for the workforce, creating rising housing costs. More population can increase traffic, crime, and demand for local government services such as schools, roads, and utilities. But for this analysis, we will ignore these and downplay the voices of the NIMBY - not in my back yard -crowd, those that see growth and change as only ruining the place they moved to.
Figure 1 shows the areas that have experienced the strongest job growth over the decade. Those areas around the Willamette Valley, Portland, the Columbia Corridor in northern Oregon, and Deschutes County far outshine the sparsely populated Central and Eastern portions of Oregon. Table 1 displays the net and percent change in payroll employment for the 10 counties with the largest percent declines over the decade. Douglas County (-4,200) and Klamath County (-1,040) show total losses exceeding 1,000 jobs. Many areas are suffering from structural declines in natural resource-based industries, and have not seen recoveries from the Great Recession the way Portland and other northern Oregon regions have. Slow population growth in many of these areas also contributes to the lack of job growth. Without population increase, demand for services and related employment will have a difficult time showing sustained growth.
|Total Nonfarm Employment,|
|2002 and 2012 Annual Averages|
|2002||2012||Net Change||Percent Change|
Oregon counties with the largest percent declines in total population tend to be small. Baker and Malheur are the only shrinking counties where the 2012 population exceeded 15,000 residents.
Getting back to that Huffington Post article mentioned earlier, while some counties experienced a net gain in population over the decade, many of those also experienced a "natural decrease" where deaths exceeded births, according to Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer and sociology professor who researched the findings reported. He states, "These counties are in a pretty steep downward spiral. The young people leave and the older adults stay in place and age. Unless something drastic changes, these areas are likely to have more and more natural decrease." In Oregon, much of the natural decrease has been offset by net migration. But in many rural and coastal counties, it has been the in-migration of retirees and older residents that have kept population levels from falling or falling more than they otherwise would have. Table 3 shows the top Oregon counties with the greatest natural decrease, expressed as a percent of their 2002 population totals. These counties tend to be smaller and more rural, with older populations.
On the other hand, natural increases were experienced in larger, typically more urban counties or metropolitan areas:
- Clackamas (+11,153 or 3.2%)
- Deschutes (+6,669 or 5.4%)
- Salem MSA (+24,398 or 6.9%)
- Washington (+47,291 or 10.2%)
|Slowest-Growing Oregon County Population, 2002-2012|
|2012 Population||2002 Population||Net Change||Percent Change|
|2002-2012 Natural Population Change|
|Natural Increase (Deaths-Births)||Natural Increase Percent of 2002 Population|
Oregon's 18 to 34 year-old population rose by 8.6 percent from 2002 to 2012, and that group accounted for 23.3 percent of the state's population in 2012. All of the top counties that had the least growth in 18 to 34 year-old population also had a lower concentration of that cohort in 2012 than Oregon overall.
|Population Change: Young Adults 18-34|
|Percent of Population Age 18-34||Percent Change 2002-2012|
Figure 2 shows the critical condition ranking for all Oregon counties.
|Oregon Critical Condition County Summary|
|Nonfarm Payroll||Population Change||Natural Increase||18-34 Population Change||Critical Condition Point Total|