Central and Southern Oregon Coast Economy for 2018

by Erik Knoder

May 29, 2019

The economy of the central and southern Oregon coast continued adding jobs at a faster-than-usual rate in 2018 overall. However, growth slowed abruptly in July and job growth in the second half of 2018 was about one-half the rate experienced in the first half of the year. Employment growth continued to slow in 2019, and the average growth rate for the first four months is now below the long-term expected trend. Unemployment rates for the central and south coast remain near-record lows, but have been higher than the statewide level, and were higher than counties along Oregon’s north coast. Unemployment rates for the central and south coast in April 2019 are up slightly over the previous year, but the increase is not statistically significant. The central and southern coast are mainly contained in Lincoln, Coos, and Curry counties. This analysis is based on economic data for those three counties. The coastal cities of Florence and Reedsport lie in Lane and Douglas counties, but the economies of those counties are dominated by interior cities and they are excluded from this analysis.

Lincoln, Coos, and Curry counties combined to add 102 jobs (payroll jobs covered by unemployment insurance) from July 2017 to July 2018, a growth rate of just 0.2 percent. The long-run growth in employment in these counties is expected to be about 0.7 percent. Total covered payroll employment in July 2018 was 47,925, which was still 1,291 below its July peak in 2006 of 49,216 jobs – during the housing boom and before the Great Recession. During the third quarter of 2018, the three counties had 4,755 businesses with payroll employees. This was an increase of 66 businesses from the third quarter of 2017. In July 2018, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in Lincoln County, 5.3 percent in Coos County, and 5.9 percent in Curry County. Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.0 percent that month.

The Oregon Employment Department collects published stories of business expansions, openings, and closures, mainly from local newspapers. A search of this database revealed 15 articles mentioning business expansions in Lincoln, Coos, and Curry counties from January through December 2018. These included expansions at the International Port of Coos Bay, First Community Credit Union, and the Bandon Police Department. A search for new firms revealed 52 articles. These included Newport Brewing Company, Guild Mortgage, Carl’s Corner Convenience Mart, Tioga Sports Park, Ace Hardware, Natural Grocers, and Gold Beach Automotive. A search for business closures yielded 12 articles, including The Gluten Free Place, Umpqua Bank in Port Orford, and Baycrest Village.

Visitor spending data from Dean Runyon Associates shows that destination spending increased 3.7 percent in 2018 in Lincoln and Curry counties, and 1.5 percent in Coos County. Total visitor spending in the three counties was almost $1 billion in 2018.

The increases in employment, number of businesses, business expansions and openings, travel spending, and personal income (not discussed) all point to an economy for the central and southern Oregon Coast that has largely recovered from the Great Recession. Low unemployment rates suggest that the economy is at or near full employment. Although total employment is lower than its peak during the housing boom of 2006 and 2007, it is important to remember that this was a time of debt-fueled construction that was not sustainable. Much of the remaining employment gap is due to lower, and more normal, levels of residential construction. Another important feature of Oregon’s coastal economy is that growth is generally more robust in the north, which is closer to the Portland metro area, and weaker in the south. In Oregon, and the nation, economic growth since the Great Recession has been fueled by large metro areas.

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