Gross Domestic Product in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

December 19, 2019

Northwest Oregon’s recovery from the Great Recession was uneven. Employment grew faster in Benton and Clatsop counties and lagged in Columbia and Lincoln counties. Tillamook County’s employment growth was in between these two groups. The change in gross domestic product of the counties seems to have followed roughly the same general pattern.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently began estimating county-level gross domestic product. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of goods and services produced in an area. The BEA’s estimates show that Benton County’s GDP grew by roughly $1.4 billion dollars from 2008 through 2018. After adjusting for inflation this resulted in real growth of nearly 25 percent. Benton County’s employment passed its pre-recession high in 2012, so it has been on a strong growth path for years. Benton County provided 44 percent of the region’s $11.6 billion GDP in 2018. Despite a large public sector most of Benton County’s recent GDP growth came from the private sector. The county’s GDP grew by 4.9 percent from 2017 to 2018 and the private sector accounted for 96 percent of this growth. Manufacturing was the single-largest contributor to growth.

Clatsop County’s employment also passed its pre-recession high in 2012 and had solid GDP growth during the recovery from the Great Recession. Its GDP growth was a moderate 2.6 percent from 2017 to 2018 as its economy continued more normal growth after the recovery phase. Clatsop County’s GDP grew by $623 million over the 10 years and it had total inflation-adjusted growth of about 16 percent. The county’s growth from 2017 to 2018 came primarily from its private-sector service industries. Clatsop County’s goods-producing industries actually shrank a little and government contributed about 5 percent to the county’s growth. Clatsop County had the third-largest net change in GDP in Northwest Oregon; Lincoln County just edged out Clatsop County’s net change. Clatsop County had the second-fastest growth rate (16.2%) in GDP over 10 years.

As with their employment, Lincoln and Columbia counties struggled to find solid GDP growth during the recovery from the recession. Columbia County’s GDP fell 0.4 percent in 2013 and 3.5 percent in 2014 before rebounding strongly in 2015. It increased 3.0 percent in 2018, but has grown by only 10.4 percent in real terms since 2008. Services, especially real estate, powered most of its GDP growth, but natural resources and mining also contributed significantly. Columbia County’s government sector shrank just slightly in 2018. Lincoln County’s GDP fell six out of seven years from 2006 through 2013. In inflation-adjusted terms it took until 2016 for the county’s GDP to surpass the level it first reached in 2006. GDP has grown well since then, including a gain of 3.4 percent in 2018. Lincoln County’s growth was mostly provided by service industries, but manufacturing and its government sector also contributed significantly.

Tillamook County has the smallest GDP in the region, but it has been in the middle of the pack for GDP growth (14.4%) since 2008. Its GDP grew by only 1.0 percent in 2018, which is probably a little slower than would be expected for a county with a strong food manufacturing industry. Tillamook County had solid growth in 2018 from its service and manufacturing industries. Government also contributed to GDP growth. The county’s slow total growth was due to a large loss of output in its natural resources and mining industries, which subtracted 1.75 percentage points from overall GDP growth. The county lost about 20 logging jobs from 2016 through 2018; those lost jobs may be related to the drop in GDP.

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