Fueled by In-Migration, Portland Metro Area’s Population Surges in 2016

by Amy Vander Vliet

May 31, 2017

The Portland metropolitan area (Oregon portion) added 35,600 new residents in 2016, bringing the population to 1,935,030 according to the latest report from Portland State University. These newcomers translate into a growth rate of 1.9 percent; outpacing the rest of the state (1.3%) and the fastest pace since the early- to mid-nineties, when growth averaged 2.3 percent annually.

For perspective, if these 35,600 people formed their own county, it would be larger than Oregon’s seven smallest counties combined. As a city, it would be the 15th largest; about the size of Oregon City or McMinnville.
The vast majority of these people moved here: 27,300, or 75 people a day. This far exceeds 2015’s influx of 20,600 in-migrants and rivals the flows of the early- and mid-nineties. The remaining growth came from births (less deaths), or ‘natural increase’. This component of population growth has been consistent over time, hovering around 10,000 annually.

Migration typically accounts for about two-thirds of the metro area’s population growth each year. But it slowed to a trickle in the aftermath of the Great Recession, contributing just one-quarter to growth. Portland’s jobs recovery was initially lethargic and unemployment was high. People were less willing to move without a job lined up, especially to an area as hard hit as Portland. Additionally, a study by the Federal Reserve of Boston found that the rising number of homeowners underwater in their mortgages contributed to a decrease in state-to-state migration (aka “house lock”). It might seem surprising people moved here at all. But the Rose City entices newcomers, even during tough economic times.

It didn’t take long for migration to get back on track. It more than doubled in 2012 and has accelerated in each year since. By 2016, it accounted for more than three-quarters of the region’s population growth.

For an overview of the metro area’s in-migrants, see “Not from Around Here: Portland Metro’s Non-Native Residents Compared with Oregon-Born”.

An excellent and more detailed report was recently published by researchers at Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs: Destination Portland: Post-Great Recession Migration Trends in the Rose City Region.

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