Is Clatsop County Still a Rural County?

by Erik Knoder

June 21, 2017

Yes, but its economy doesn’t always perform like a typical rural county in Oregon. Employment in Clatsop County has been growing stronger than in most rural counties, unemployment is lower, and the county’s population is younger. The Oregon Employment Department recently released a report on rural Oregon (The Employment Landscape of Rural Oregon, and on a variety of measures, Clatsop County doesn’t fit in.

Clatsop County has more working age adults than many rural counties, and close to average numbers of youth and seniors. Clatsop County ranked 10th out of Oregon’s 36 counties for having the highest share of adults ages 18 through 64. It ranked just below Deschutes County (Bend) and just above Marion County (Salem), both metro areas. Clatsop County also has a natural increase (more births than deaths) in its population of about 0.5 percent per year, unlike most rural counties in Oregon, which have more deaths than births. Clatsop County ranked just ahead of Lane County (Eugene) for its rate of natural population increase from 2010 to 2016.
Clatsop County’s unemployment rate is much lower than most rural counties, and is similar to metro areas in the state.

In May 2017, the unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in Clatsop County, 3.3 percent in the Portland metro area, 3.5 percent in the Salem metro area, and 3.3 percent statewide. The rate has also had less seasonal fluctuation the past few years, another feature of more diverse metro areas.

Clatsop County has also seen more employment growth after the Great Recession than most rural counties. It hasn’t grown quite as fast as most metro areas, but it has had net job growth and is setting new highs for employment.
Clatsop County also has an industry structure that is more like metro areas than most rural counties. A notable feature of most rural counties is that government provides a larger share of total payroll than it does in metro areas. Government provided 15.8 percent of all payroll jobs in metro counties in 2016, and 24.1 percent of all jobs in rural counties. In Clatsop County government provided 16.0 percent of jobs, nearly identical to the metro figure.

There may be a variety of reasons that Clatsop County’s economy is similar to Oregon’s metro economies; one of them has to be its proximity to Portland. Along the Oregon coast, economic prosperity and job growth has a pronounced trend of decreasing with increasing distance from Portland. Clatsop County is blessed with being the quickest coastal destination from Portland, and it reaps the rewards.


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