Curry County’s Economy: The Last 10 Years, 2006- 2016

Curry County’s Economy: The Last 10 Years, 2006- 2016

by Annette Shelton-Tiderman

September 1, 2016

As Oregon's economy sails toward ever-brighter shores, coastal Curry County continues to navigate the choppy waters of economic recovery. The plunging unemployment rates of the Great Recession and workers' struggles to find employment have been edged aside by revitalized business activities and new ventures.

The Great Recession Came Early and Stayed Late

When looking at national employment levels, the Great Recession officially started in December 2007 and ended (stopped shedding jobs) by June 2009. Curry County's employment peaked in 2005 and hit bottom in 2011, after which the county's industries started adding jobs, only to drop back in 2014. Not all industries were affected to the same degree; not all jobs lost have been recovered; and those that have returned often require additional or new skills. The economic landscape of the past 10 years has been rugged and varied.

Curry County's economy is grounded in the availability, use, and enjoyment of its vast natural resources. Industries associated with logging, wood product manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, and recreation are not only subject to unpredictable and sometimes extreme weather conditions, but are economic arenas subject to varying land- and ocean-use constraints. Against this backdrop of uncertainty and challenge, businesses have turned to streamlining activities and engaging in more efficient processes, e.g., using temporary workers hired through staffing agencies.

As with the nation and the state, the county's construction industry was part of the leading edge of the downward plunge followed by nearly every other business sector. Only professional and business services, which includes staffing agencies, and private educational and health services managed to weather the Great Recession without losing jobs (2.4% and 0% job growth, respectively).

Curry County's construction industry lost 52 percent of its employment between May 2006 and May 2011. Mining and logging lost 21 percent of its employment, and manufacturing lost 20 percent of its jobs (mainstay wood product manufacturing employment dropped 21 percent). Statewide, construction employment dropped 32 percent during this same period, and wood product manufacturing lost just over 41 percent of its employment. Other arenas, particularly those depending on discretionary spending such as retail trade and leisure and hospitality, lost jobs. Locally, retail trade shed 8 percent of its employment between 2006 and 2011. Leisure and hospitality lost 16 percent of its jobs. Statewide, retail trade lost 7 percent of its employment, and leisure and hospitality did not lose jobs – it gained a fraction of a percent during the years of downturn.

Recovery is Relative, Depending on Industry and Location

Since the Great Recession bottomed out and businesses started adding jobs (2011-2016), Oregon's construction industry has grown 32 percent. The professional and business services industry has added nearly 25 percent; leisure and hospitality has gained  21 percent.

This robust pace of recovery has been more subdued in rural Curry County. During the past five years, Curry County's leading job-adding industries include leisure and hospitality (20%); private educational and health services (13%, primarily health services); manufacturing (12%; wood products manufacturing, 5%); construction (9%); followed by mining and logging (9%). In spite of these impressive growth rates, area construction employment is still 48 percent below pre-recession levels; professional and business services is 20 percent below; and manufacturing is nearly 11 percent below. Overall, only private educational and health services, and leisure and hospitality show job counts above pre-recession levels (12.9% and 0.9%, respectively).

Industry projections for 2014-2024 take the past into account and attempt to move the status quo into the future. As such, Curry County's past, its economic landscape, and the anticipated 5 percent employment growth rate are noticeably different from Oregon's statewide projected 14 percent growth rate.