Labor Force Participation in the Columbia Basin

by Dallas Fridley

October 17, 2018

The American Community Survey (ACS) produces estimates of employment status for the civilian population age 16 and over. According to the ACS, the Columbia Basin’s population total for the 16 and over age group reached 67,368 for the most recent 2012-2016 (five-year) survey. With a labor force participation rate or LFPR of 60 percent, the Columbia Basin labor force included 40,387 residents age 16 years and over. Most of the Columbia Basin’s workers were employed, while 3,510 were unemployed, producing an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent.

Morrow County led the Columbia Basin with an LFPR of 61 percent. Morrow County’s LFPR ranked seventh among Oregon counties, just behind Deschutes County (61.4%) and just ahead of Polk County (60.1%). Umatilla County’s LFPR ranked in Oregon’s top 10, tied with Clatsop County for 10th position at 59.8 percent.
Labor force participation by age, as shown in the accompanying chart, varies considerably, although each group makes an important contribution. Columbia Basin workers age 35 to 44 earned the highest LFPR, at 79 percent. All age groups between 20 and 59 years produced an LFPR of 70 percent or greater. LFPR fell sharply to 25 percent for the age 65 to 74 cohort, while workers age 75 and older produced an LFPR of just 7 percent. Young workers age 16 to 19 years maintained an LFPR of 39 percent.

Workers age 60 to 64 experienced the lowest unemployment rate of any group, with just 2 percent unemployed. For the population age 65 to 74 who chose to remain in the labor force, just 3.4 percent were unemployed. At the other end of the spectrum, workers age 16 to 19 years experienced the highest unemployment rate, at 32.8 percent, while workers age 20 to 24 also faced double-digit unemployment at 17.7 percent.
Collapsing the age cohorts to 10-year intervals, where possible, produces a more balanced view of their relative size. The age 35 to 44 group included nearly 8,600 workers, representing about 21 percent of the Columbia Basin’s labor force with an LFPR of 79 percent. The age 25 to 34 group, with about 8,300 workers and the age 45 to 54 group, with over 8,200, each represented more than 20 percent of the labor force while maintaining LFPRs well above 70 percent. The age 16 to 24 group represented 16 percent of the labor force with 6,300 workers and an LFPR of 58 percent. For workers age 65 and over, LFPR fell to just 17 percent with a labor force share of 5 percent.


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