In the big picture, Jurjevich says, regional restructuring of the economy, de-industrialization, and workers who can bring their intellectual capital wherever they choose, have “made people more footloose.” Technology and communications have fostered a “perceived reduction of distance” convincing more of them to work thousands of miles from home and still feel close.
Jurjevich’s PRC colleague, state data center coordinator Charles Rynerson, cautions that employment still has the upper hand. “Some people are lucky enough to bring their own jobs with them, but there’s a limit to that,” he says. “If the number of jobs created by employers declines, it’s unlikely for population growth to continue at the level it was at during times of expanding job opportunities” His point can be seen in the flow of net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants) during the economic expansion and contractions of the last decade.
“It’s easy and quick to cut jobs during a recession,” says Nick Beleiciks, state employment economist of the Oregon Employment Department, “but population changes aren’t quick. 2006 was our fastest year of population growth as the economy added jobs. Those people stuck around as the economy cut jobs.”
While the state population grew 12% from 2000 to 2010, total employment fell 1.1%. On balance, about 250,000 people migrated to Oregon in those years, joining young native Oregonians entering the workforce. But employment fell about 18,000 in the same period. Compare this to the 1990s when the population grew 20.4% and employment rose 28.8%.
Beleiciks explains the jobs shortfall this way: “In 2000 we were at a high point in the business cycle and then 2010 is a low point in the business cycle. That will make the numbers look small.”