Where Oregon Metro Areas Rank in Unemployment

by Luke Coury

April 11, 2023

A Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is an urban zone with 50,000 or more inhabitants. The largest cities in each MSA are designated the “principal” cities. The title of each MSA consists of up to three principal city names.

Oregon currently has eight Metropolitan Statistical Areas of which the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro MSA is by far the largest. Oregon’s other MSAs are the Salem, Corvallis, Albany, Eugene, Bend, Medford, and Grants Pass Metro Areas.

Oregon MSAs Had Above Average Unemployment Rates

In January 2023, Oregon’s MSAs generally had above average unemployment rates. The average unemployment rate of the 389 national MSAs was 4.0%. Only Corvallis had a lower rate of 3.7%, giving it the 186th highest rate in the nation. Besides Corvallis, all of Oregon’s MSAs had an unemployment rate at or higher than 4.5%, placing them in the top 100 MSAs with the highest unemployment rates.

Grants Pass had the highest unemployment rate of Oregon’s MSAs (7.3%), making it the 13th highest rate in the nation. Medford (6.0%) and Albany (5.4%) also had unemployment rates in the top 50 highest rates nationwide. After Corvallis (3.7%), the Portland metro area had the lowest rate (4.5%), followed by Salem (4.9%).
Graph showing January 2023 Unemployment Rates in Selected MSAs Ranked Highest to Lowest Rates

Unemployment rates varied widely between the nation’s MSAs. Rapid City and Sioux Falls, SD were tied with the lowest unemployment rates at 1.9%. Conversely, El Centro, CA had the highest rate at 16.2%, followed by Ocean City, NJ, which had a rate of 11.7%.

Portland Metro Rate High Relative to Other Large Metro Areas

The Portland-area MSA had a relatively high unemployment rate compared with other major metro areas. Along with the Houston, TX MSA, it was tied for the fifth highest unemployment rates among metro areas with populations greater than one million. The average unemployment rate for these major MSAs was 3.6%, slightly lower than the average for all MSAs.

The Las Vegas, NV metro area had the highest unemployment rate among major MSAs at 5.9%. Other MSAs with relatively high rates included Pittsburg, PA (4.8%); Chicago, IL (4.7%); and Los Angeles, CA (4.6%).
Graph showing January 2023 Unemployment Rates in Metro Areas With Populations Greater than One Million Selected for Six Highest and Seven Lowest

Miami, FL had the lowest unemployment rate of major MSAs at 2.3%. Other MSAs with relatively low rates included Birmingham, AL (2.4%); Jacksonville, FL and Salt Lake City, UT (both with rates of 2.5%); and Milwaukee, WI, Orlando, FL, and Tampa, FL (all with rates of 2.6%).

Oregon’s Unemployment Rates in Historical Context

Oregon’s MSAs tend to have high unemployment rates relative to other metro areas across the country. It is fairly typical, as was the case in January 2023, for most Oregon MSAs to have above average unemployment rates during any given month. This trend has generally remained consistent over the last decade.

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