Contrasting the Counties in Northwest Oregon

Contrasting the Counties in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

April 21, 2016

Tillamook County has more of its employment in natural resources and mining. Benton County is host to thousands of state government workers at Oregon State University. Columbia County stands out for its manufacturing employment. The Northwest Oregon Workforce Area includes five counties: Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook. Our analysis is often done for the whole region, but this can obscure important differences. This article will look at some of these industrial differences among the counties.

State government was the industry with the largest difference in employment among the five counties. Unsurprisingly, Benton County has a far larger share (18%) of its employment in state government than the other counties due to the presence of Oregon State University. This will likely change in future analysis since the university is now being counted as a local government unit. Expect Benton County to dominate in local government employment next year.

The industry with the second-largest difference in employment is natural resources and mining. This industry is usually dominated by logging firms, with some employment in gravel-mining jobs as well. Timber-rich Tillamook County has 8 percent of its total employment in this industry. The county is blessed with a great climate for growing trees and is home to the 364,000-acre Tillamook State Forest.

Professional and business services employment also varies a lot among the counties. This wide-ranging industry includes professional offices, temporary help services, and waste management companies. The industry tends to be larger in metropolitan areas that have the scale to support firms specializing in one type of activity. Benton County is the only complete metropolitan area in the region. Columbia County is part of the Portland metro area.

At the other end of the continuum, the counties were fairly similar in their shares of employment in financial activities; other services (e.g., repair shops, beauty salons); and trade (including retail trade), transportation, and utilities. The counties showed moderate differences in other industries. Columbia County had the largest share (14%) of its employment in manufacturing, but Tillamook County had 13 percent of its employment in the industry, and Clatsop County had 12 percent. Only Lincoln County was notably low with 6 percent of its employment in manufacturing.

Although the counties are geographically contiguous, some of their industries vary significantly in their contribution to the counties' total employment.