Gross Domestic Product in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

December 29, 2020

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 for four counties, but GDP for Tillamook County is estimated to have grown much faster than any of the other counties.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) makes estimates of 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 nearly $1.3 billion dollars from 2009 through 2019. After adjusting for inflation this resulted in real growth of just over 18%. Benton County’s employment passed its pre-recession high in 2012, so was on a strong growth path for years until the pandemic. Benton County provided 41% of the region’s $12.1 billion GDP in 2019. Despite a large public sector Benton County’s recent GDP growth came from the private sector. The government’s contribution to GDP actually fell slightly. The county’s GDP grew by 1.5% from 2018 to 2019. Manufacturing was the single-largest contributor to growth, followed by real estate.

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 4.3% from 2018 to 2019 as its economy continued more normal growth before the pandemic. Clatsop County’s GDP grew by $762 million over the 10 years, which yielded total inflation-adjusted growth of 24.7% over that period. The county’s growth from 2018 to 2019 came primarily from its private-sector service industries. Clatsop County’s real estate industry provided the most to the county’s GDP growth followed by health care and manufacturing. Clatsop County had the largest net change (+$76.4 million) in GDP of the five counties in Northwest Oregon from 2018 to 2019.

As with their employment, Lincoln and Columbia counties have had more modest GDP growth during the recovery from the Great Recession. Columbia County’s GDP fell in the years after the Great Recession before rebounding strongly in 2015. It increased 4.7% in 2019, but has grown by only 15.1% in real terms since 2009. Services, especially real estate, powered its GDP growth, and the goods-producing industries actually declined slightly from 2018 to 2019. 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 since then, including a gain of 3.8% in 2019. Lincoln County’s growth was mostly provided by service industries with real estate being the leading contributor to growth by far and retail trade also contributing. Manufacturing and the other goods-producing industries had weak growth in 2019.

Tillamook County has the smallest GDP in the region, but it has led the pack for GDP growth (33.6%) since 2009. Its GDP grew by 6.4% in 2019. Most of Tillamook County’s GDP growth in 2019 came from real estate, with additional growth from natural resources. Health care and government also contributed a share to GDP growth. Manufacturing was nearly unchanged over the year. Although the county has the smallest GDP in the Northwest region, its growth led to it producing the second-largest absolute gain (+$69.4 million) in GDP among the five counties. Pretty impressive.


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