In 2006, net migration was almost 43,000, the biggest surge of new residents in a decade. And in 2007, the state had 1.7 million employees, the most ever. By 2010, more than 130,000 jobs were lost and the flow of in-migrants slowed to a trickle. Net migration was just 6,344, the lowest level since 1986 when a net of more than 30,000 people fled another recession then afflicting the state.
Between 1979 and 1982, total employment plummeted 94,900 or 9%. Between 2007 and 2010, it dropped 131,400 or 7.6%.
“For Oregon the early ’80s recession was probably worse than the recession we just went through,” says Beleiciks. “What we ended up seeing was population loss during the early 1980s .”
The out-migration was so severe that natural increase (births minus deaths) couldn’t make up for losses and the total population declined those three years. No such loss has occurred in the wake of the recent recession, but 2009 and 2010 were the first years in more than 20 that in-migration contributed less to the population than natural increase. Still, net out-migration is unlikely in the near term since overall this year the unemployment rate is going down. “I would be very surprised if we had population decline in the near future,” says Rynerson. As for getting the jobs back, the state Office of Economic Analysis forecasts a return to 2007-level peak employment in 2014.
A sustained uptick in jobs would roll out the welcome mat to the young and restless people who make the cogs of the economy turn, starting families and businesses, patronizing local small businesses and revitalizing the workforce.
Most people migrate when they are in their late teens to mid-20s, says Jurjevich, “People are graduating from college, they’re entering the workforce, they’re going into the military and so jobs still remain the No. 1 reason why people move in those age groups.” Secondarily they might consider proximity to family and friends, climate, quality of life, cost of living, crime, schools and their attachment to where they grew up.