Gross Domestic Product in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

January 11, 2023

Gross domestic product rebounded strongly in most counties in Northwest Oregon in 2021. Every county in Northwest Oregon was hit hard by the pandemic recession in 2020. Business restrictions and closures affected all counties. The travel industry, so important to the coast, saw an unprecedented drop in business and employment, and Oregon State University in Benton County ended in-person instruction. It’s not surprising then that in 2020 gross domestic product fell in four of the five counties from 2019 to 2020.
Table showing Northwest Oregon gross domestic product

The recovery in 2021 reversed that trend in most counties, but not in Tillamook County, which had a small drop in output in 2021 after a gain in 2020. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of goods and services produced in an area.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates show that Benton County’s inflation-adjusted GDP grew by nearly $490 million dollars from 2011 through 2021, a real growth of 12.4%. Benton County’s employment was on a strong growth path until falling slightly after 2017. Oregon State University’s canceling of in-person attendance in 2020 led to the loss of thousands of jobs, and GDP fell by 0.9% in 2020. The county’s GDP fully recovered in 2021 and hit $4.4 billion.

Benton County provided 43.0% of the region’s $10.3 billion GDP in 2021. Benton County’s manufacturing, information, and transportation industries provided a measure of stability during the pandemic. The private sector also provided all the GDP growth in 2021. Top private-sector industries contributing to growth in 2021 included professional and business services, finance, information, and accommodation and food services. Manufacturing lost ground in 2021.

Clatsop County’s employment also had solid GDP growth during the recovery from the Great Recession, and it was also hit very hard by the pandemic recession. Clatsop County’s GDP grew by $265 million from 2011 to 2021 after adjusting for inflation. This was growth of 17.8% over the period. The county’s growth in 2021 came primarily from its private-sector service industries. Clatsop County’s accommodation and food services, professional and business services, and health care industries provided much of the county’s recent GDP growth. Real estate shrank in 2021.

Columbia County’s GDP growth during the recovery from the pandemic recession was similar to Benton County. Columbia County’s GDP fell in the years after the Great Recession before rebounding more in 2015. It’s GDP has grown by 19.8% in real terms from 2011 to 2021 – the second-fastest rate in Northwest Oregon. The total gain in GDP was $205 million after adjusting for inflation. The growth was due entirely to the private sector, which grew by 25.5%. Government GDP fell by 6.9% in Columbia County from 2011 through 2021. Utilities, professional and business services, and wholesale trade powered its GDP growth in 2021. As with Clatsop County, real estate in Columbia County showed a loss of output in 2021.

During the Great Recession, Lincoln County’s GDP fell four out of five years from 2008 through 2013. In inflation-adjusted terms it took until 2017 for the county’s GDP to surpass the level it first reached in 2008. The pandemic recession then hit Lincoln County very hard; for two months the county had an unemployment rate in excess of 20% as its travel industry collapsed. The county’s inflation-adjusted GDP was almost $28 million lower in 2020 than it had been 10 years earlier during the Great Recession. But GDP in Lincoln County came roaring back in 2021, growing by $97 million as people flocked to the Oregon Coast after travel restrictions lifted. The industries adding the most to Lincoln County’s GDP growth in 2021 were accommodation and food services, professional and business services, and government (including public schools). GDP from real estate dropped in 2021.

Tillamook County has the smallest GDP in the region, but it led the pack by far for GDP growth (44.8%) from 2011 to 2021. Tillamook County largely escaped the pandemic recession, or at least its GDP did. Its GDP grew by $28.5 million from 2019 to 2020, and actually fell just slightly (-$4 million) in 2021. The positive contributions to Tillamook County’s GDP change from 2020 to 2021 came from nondurable goods manufacturing (probably food manufacturing), accommodation and food services, and professional and business services. Tillamook County had a moderate drop in real estate, similar to other counties. Unlike other counties, Tillamook County’s GDP from the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry fell dramatically – by nearly $94 million – in 2021. Unfortunately, this group of industries is not broken out in more detail in the GDP tables, but it is broken out somewhat in measures of personal income. Most of the sub-industries were confidential or little changed, but there was a significant drop (-$8.4 million) in farm earnings in 2021 and farm proprietors’ income fell by $10.6 million. It appears that agricultural output accounted for much of the drop in GDP in Tillamook County in 2021.

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