Labor Force Participation in the Columbia Gorge

by Dallas Fridley

October 16, 2018

The American Community Survey (ACS) produces estimates of employment status for the civilian population age 16-years and over. According to the ACS, the Columbia Gorge’s population total for the 16-years and over group reached 42,456 for the most recent 2012-2016 (5-year) survey. With a labor force participation rate (LFPR) of 61 percent, the Columbia Gorge labor force included 25,732 residents age 16-years and over. Most of the Columbia Gorge’s workers were employed, only 1,622 were unemployed, producing an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent.

Hood River County led the Columbia Gorge by a wide margin with an LFPR of 65 percent. Hood River County’s LFPR led the Columbia Gorge but it also ranked third among Oregon counties, trailing just Multnomah (1st) and Washington (2nd) counties. Wasco County’s LFPR ranked second in the Columbia Gorge, at 58 percent but it didn’t rank in Oregon’s top 10, coming in a middling 14th. Sherman County ranked 20th among Oregon counties at 57 percent and Gilliam County’s 53 percent LFPR ranked 25th. Wheeler County ranked second to last, just ahead of Curry County, with an LFPR of just 47 percent.
Labor force participation by age, as shown in the accompanying chart, varies considerably, although each group makes an important contribution. Columbia Gorge workers age 30 to 34 earned the highest LFPR, at 86 percent. All age groups between 20 and 54 years produced an LFPR of 80 percent or greater. LFPR fell sharply to 24 percent for the age 65 to 74 cohort, while workers age 75 and older produced an LFPR of just 4 percent. Young workers age 16 to 19 years maintained an LFPR of 38 percent.

Workers age 45 to 54 experienced the lowest unemployment rate of any group, with just 2.6 percent unemployed. Workers age 30 to 34 also produced a very low unemployment rate at just 3 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, workers age 16 to 19 years experienced the highest unemployment rate, at 14.5 percent, while workers age 20 to 24 also faced double-digit unemployment at 11.1 percent. For workers age 65 to 74 who chose to remain in the labor force, just 4.4 percent were unemployed, although the rate climbed to 9.6 percent for workers age 75 and over.
Collapsing the age cohorts to 10-year intervals, where possible, produces a more balanced view of their relative size. The age 45 to 54 group included over 5,700 workers, representing about 22 percent of the Columbia Gorge’s labor force with an LFPR of 82 percent. The age 25 to 34 group, with about 5,200 workers and the age 35 to 44 group, with just over 5,000 each represented about 20 percent of the labor force while maintaining LFPRs above 80 percent. Workers age 16 to 24 represented 13 percent of the labor force with close to 3,400 workers and an LFPR of 61 percent. For workers age 65 and over, LFPR fell to just 15 percent with a labor force share of 6 percent.


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