A Quick Look at Population Trends in Eastern Oregon

by Christopher Rich

February 3, 2020

Recently released estimates from Portland State University (PSU) show the population increased in Eastern Oregon, as well as Oregon, from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019. This is in line with the long-term trend of a growing population in both the state and the region overall. PSU’s Population Research Center does extensive work to create annual population estimates for the state, counties, and incorporated cities. Broad level data is prepared as of July 1 each year. The data is reviewed in November, certified, and then released in December. Detailed data focused on age demographics and the components of population change is released the following spring.
The population increased over the year in four of Eastern Oregon’s eight counties. Baker, Malheur, Morrow, and Umatilla saw growth. Grant, Harney, Union, and Wallowa saw the scale tip the opposite direction. Growth was 0.6 percent for the region overall, which represents an increase from the previous year’s over-the-year growth rate of 0.2 percent. Eastern Oregon’s over-the-year rate was more than half the state’s growth rate of 1.0 percent. The five-year trend (2014 to 2019) for growth was 3.0 percent in Eastern Oregon, which represents an increase from the previous five-year trend (2013 to 2018) of 2.7 percent. The state’s five-year trend was nearly unchanged at 6.9 percent.
Baker County had the least growth for the year among the region’s gainers. The county added 55 residents for a gain of 0.3 percent – the previous year Baker added just 15 residents. Malheur County grew 0.3 percent as well, adding 105 residents. Umatilla County welcomed 395 new residents to account for 29.0 percent of Eastern Oregon’s growth for the year. Morrow County surged ahead, adding 795 residents for 6.7 percent growth. The previous year Morrow notched a nearly unnoticeable loss; however, this time around the county’s growth rate was by far the fastest in the state. Morrow accounted for 59.0 percent of the Eastern Oregon’s total population gain.

Grant County’s five-year loss climbed to 65, with 40 fewer residents than in 2018. Harney, Wallowa, and Union each took a slight step back as well with losses of 20, 25, and 45 residents over the year, respectively. These losses are in contrast to five-year trends for the three counties. Each of the three counties saw growth above 1.0 percent for the most recent five-year period.

While over-the-year changes ebb and flow, long-term trends paint a clearer picture of how Eastern Oregon’s population is changing. The region added 10,450 residents since 2009 (+5.8%) and 14,201 residents since 2000 (+8.0%). Umatilla and Union counties drove growth since 2009. Umatilla, Union, and Morrow counties drove growth since 2000. Long-term population loss came almost entirely from Grant and Harney counties. Grant County saw a 7.2 percent loss since 2000, down 575 residents. Harney County saw a 4.6 percent loss since 2009, down 355 residents. I’ll release a more detailed analysis when the data becomes available in the spring, which will include age demographics, birth and death rates, and net migration.

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