Shifts within Oregon and the region
While statewide population rose 12% and employment fell 1.1%, people and the lack of jobs did not spread uniformly across the state over the last decade. Five counties ended up with fewer people than they started with and 10 had employment growth above 10%.
Central Oregon and Portland Metro gobbled up three-fourths of the population’s entire natural increase (births minus deaths) and nearly two-thirds of its net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants). Deschutes County grew fastest (49.1%, adding 56,683), but Washington County added the most (19.6%, adding 87,278).
While moving into the city has become more popular even for people working in the suburbs, Washington County and Clark County, Wash., (92,576) still added more people than the more urbanized Multnomah County (69,654).
“Portland is doing an incredible job of encouraging infill,” says Charles Rynerson, state data center coordinator at PSU’s Population Research Center (PRC), “but as long as there is still vacant land that’s available for new housing there’s going to be growth in the suburbs.”
The suburbs scored even better for jobs. Multnomah County lost 1.4% of its employment base over the decade, but Washington County grew employment 7.1% and Clark County grew 11.3%, adding 19,000, more jobs than any county in Oregon.
Of the newcomers to the city of Portland though, PRC assistant director Jason Jurjevich says they are more educated but below the national average in terms of per capita income. “It poses a concern to economic development officials,” he says but “income is not the only factor people will consider in terms of staying within a place.”
Rynerson notes that Portland’s 25-64 age demographic expanded. “It’s a lot of people in that age group being added in Multnomah County … that’s a population that’s largely in the labor force.”
In Central Oregon, Deschutes County gained 10,000 employees over the decade, while almost 50,000 people relocated there. “It may be a case of population growth driving job growth,” says Nick Beleiciks, state employment economist at the Oregon Employment Department. “People were moving to Bend and that created need for housing and jobs.”
The Coast’s 5.3% employment growth outpaced its 2.9% population growth, dragged down by a natural decrease of almost 5,000 people. “The Coast is gaining more people of working age, especially those over 45 years, and having less growth in the population of children,” says Erik Knoder, Employment Department regional economist. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it is happening in many rural areas.”
Three Eastern counties — Baker, Grant and Wallowa — lost population over the decade along with two Central counties — Gilliam and Sherman, which both increased their employment by more than 15%. Beleiciks attributes that to wind farms.
Oregon grew faster than the nation, 9.7%, but neighboring states Nevada, Idaho and Washington increased population at 35.1%, 21.1% and 14.1%, respectively. Only California at 10% grew slower.
“Our proximity to California is always a big factor,” says Rynerson. It “has almost 10 times as many people as Oregon. Some tiny fraction of them that move here each year doesn’t make a dent on their population, but it has a big impact on ours.”
On the other end of our migration flow sits Washington: “Year after year, the top state we get people from is California and the top state we lose people to is Washington,” says Rynerson. “It’s been that way for at least 30 years.”
Washington employment grew only 2.4% over the decade but still bested Oregon’s loss. Its unemployment rate has been lower than Oregon’s for the last 14 years and 20 of the last 30. So if migrants were seeking a job first, the Evergreen State has an advantage.