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Local Government Employment Losses Mount in the Mid-Willamette Valley
by Pat O'Connor
Published Oct-21-2013

In the wake of the nation's financial crisis of 2008, the Mid-Willamette Valley's private sector experienced deep employment cuts late in 2008 through 2010. The construction and manufacturing sectors experienced the deepest cuts, similar to Oregon and the U.S.

Initially, public-sector employment in the mid-valley remained fairly stable from 2008 through 2010. In fact, Benton County's state government sector, which is dominated by Oregon State University, showed employment growth of 17 percent from 2008 through 2012 due to record-high enrollment. In the Salem MSA (Marion and Polk counties), state government showed fairly mild employment losses from 2008 through 2012, shedding 400 jobs or just less than 2 percent.

Employment losses in local government were a different story. Declines in the mid-valley's local government sectors were not significant from 2008 through 2010, but steep employment cuts occurred in 2011 and 2012 in the Salem MSA, Benton, Linn, and Yamhill counties.

Benton County recorded the steepest employment cuts in local government, declining 11.7 percent or 350 jobs from 2008 through 2012. The vast majority of those losses occurred in 2011 and 2012. Within the sector, local government education lost nearly one out of five jobs (19.5%) from 2008 through 2012. That compares with Benton County's private sector showing a 4.6 percent decline in employment from 2008 through 2012. Construction, manufacturing and information were the only sectors that experienced steeper employment losses in the county from 2008 through 2012.

The Salem MSA's local government employment was down 9.7 percent or 1,900 jobs from 2008 through 2012. Salem's private-sector employment declined 7.7 percent over that same time period, shedding 8,500 jobs. Similar to the rest of the mid-valley, the deepest public sector cuts were in the Salem MSA's local government education which declined 15.7 percent from 2008 through 2012.

Linn County's local government employment shrunk 9.6 percent from 2008 through 2012, dropping 600 jobs. Within the sector, local government education shed 13.6 percent of its employment or 560 jobs. Linn County's private sector was the hardest hit compared with their neighboring counties; private sector employment declined 9.0 percent from 2008 through 2012, nearly as steep as the county's losses in local government.

Yamhill County's construction sector and large manufacturing sector experienced steep job losses in 2009 and 2010. However, the private sector showed healthy growth in 2011 and 2012. Growth was led by the manufacturing sector which lost nearly 1,000 jobs from 2008 through 2010, but regained more than half of those jobs in 2011 and 2012. Yamhill County's 2012 manufacturing employment was down 450, or about 7 percent, from its 2008 level. From 2008 through 2012, Yamhill County's private-sector employment was down 3.7 percent, while local government employment was down 9.3 percent over that period. Similar to the other counties in the mid-valley, Yamhill County's local government education experienced the steepest employment losses in the public sector, declining 14.5 percent or 380 jobs from 2008 through 2012.

Table 1
Percent Change in Annual Employment 2008-2012
  Total Nonfarm Employment Total Private  Local Government Local Government Education
Benton County -0.1% -4.6% -11.7% -19.5%
Yamhill County -4.3% -3.7% -9.3% -14.5%
Salem MSA (Marion and Polk counties) -7.2% -7.7% -9.7% -15.7%
Linn County -8.7% -9.0% -9.6% -13.6%