Rural Northwest Oregon Industry Overview for March 2017

by Erik Knoder

May 9, 2017

The recent revisions to employment estimates for March 2017 show that Northwest Oregon is continuing its moderate economic recovery. Total payroll employment for the four rural counties – Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook – is now solidly ahead of its level in 2008. Total payroll employment in March 2017 was 720 more than in March 2008, an increase of 1.3 percent. The Northwest Oregon region also includes Benton County, which is being left out of this analysis since it had quite a different recovery experience.
Lincoln County is the only county with its payroll employment less than it was in March 2008, and it has been quickly closing the gap. The revisions to the March data added 500 jobs in Lincoln County. The county’s employment needs to grow by about 2 percent more to get back to its pre-recession level.

The industries contributing most of the job growth since 2008 in the four rural counties are educational and health services and leisure and hospitality. Professional and business services, government, and other services have also gained jobs over the last nine years.

Goods-producing industries – manufacturing, construction, and mining and logging –  haven’t fared as well. The closure of a large paper mill in Columbia County during the Great Recession led to lost jobs that won’t be replaced anytime soon. And although the housing market is recovering well, it hasn’t fueled the job growth in logging, construction, and finance that occurred during the housing bubble of 2005 to 2007. Since that bubble was not sustainable we should not expect those jobs to return until the region’s slow population growth can support them, which may take years.

In short, Northwest Oregon’s rural counties are enjoying decent job growth, but following their usual trend of lagging the state’s metro areas.

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