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

Douglas 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, Douglas 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. Douglas County's employment peaked in 2006 and hit bottom in 2012, after which the county's industries started adding jobs. 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.

Douglas County's economy is grounded in the availability and use of its vast natural resources. Industries associated with logging, wood product manufacturing, agriculture, and some fishing 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 and manufacturing industries were the leading edge of the downward plunge followed by the other business sectors.

Douglas County's construction industry lost 43 percent of its employment between May 2006 and May 2011. Manufacturing lost over 36 percent of its employment, and the area's mainstay wood product manufacturing employment dropped 35 percent. Trade, transportation, and utilities lost more than 15 percent of its jobs; retail trade, which makes up two-thirds of that industry's employment, lost 15 percent of its jobs. Leisure and hospitality also shed jobs (12%).

Statewide, construction employment dropped 32 percent during this same period, and wood product manufacturing lost just over 41 percent of its employment. Discretionary spending-dependent retail trade lost 7 percent of its employment; 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 Douglas County. During the past five years, Douglas County's leading job-adding industries include professional and business services, which includes staffing agencies, (31%); construction (14%); and manufacturing (12%; wood product manufacturing, 11%). Other industries showing gains during the recovery include leisure and hospitality (9%) and private educational and health services (9%, primarily health services). In spite of these impressive growth rates, area construction employment is still 36 percent below pre-recession levels, and manufacturing is nearly 29 percent below. Overall, only professional and business services, private educational and health services, and mining and logging show job counts above pre-recession levels (16%, 8%, and 3%, respectively).

Industry projections for 2014-2024 take the past into account and attempt to move the status quo into the future. As such, Douglas County's past, its economic landscape, and the anticipated 9 percent employment growth rate are noticeably different from Oregon's statewide projected 14 percent growth rate.