Local Government Job Cuts in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

July 1, 2022

Local governments in Northwest Oregon trimmed 440 jobs from March through May 2020 as the pandemic hit. Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties combined to trim 8.3% of their local government employment in those two months. Since then local government added back 380 of those lost jobs, but employment in May 2022 remained 1.5% lower than in March 2020. Although the complete local government ownership usually includes public K-12 schools, community colleges, universities and all tribal enterprises, this analysis excludes these to focus on only employment by county and city governments, public utility districts, fire districts, recreation districts, ports, and similar non-education, non-tribal public districts.
Although all the counties did cut jobs in the spring of 2020, Columbia County trimmed only 20, about as much as its usual monthly variation. Benton and Clatsop counties cut 130 jobs each, Lincoln County eliminated 100 jobs, and Tillamook County dropped 60 jobs. These cuts represented about 9% of Benton County’s local government employment, 11% of Clatsop County’s local government, 8% of Lincoln County’s local government, and 7% of Tillamook County’s local government. In contrast, Columbia County lost only 3% of local government employment.

Proportionally, the biggest job losses came from parks and recreation districts and departments. Employment fell 58% in two months after March 2020 in these local government units. Public libraries took the second biggest hit to employment, cutting 26% of their workforce.

The counties differ considerably on the relative size of their local governments. Tillamook County had one local government job, excluding education jobs, for about every 36 residents in 2021. Clatsop County had one local government job for every 38 residents, Lincoln County had one for every 43 residents, Benton had one for every 64 residents, and Columbia County had the least amount of local government employment relative to its population at one job for every 76 residents.

One of the more surprising aspects of local government employment is how little it has changed even as the population in the counties has increased. From 2007 to 2021 Northwest Oregon’s population increased 11.2% but local government employment increased only 2.6%.

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