Oregon’s March 2010 employment figures are out and they continue a steady twenty-five month decline. The figures showed an additional 1,000 private sector jobs lost. It also continued a nearly unbroken string of twenty-five months of steady decline for private sector employment in Oregon.
At the same time Juju.com released its monthly index report on the best and worst places to look for a job. Not surprisingly, Oregon finished near the bottom. Of the fifty major cities, Portland finished forty-third bunched tightly with Birmingham, Alabama and Providence, Rhode Island, neither of which would be considered a “desirable” place to live or work. Juju.com index is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed workers in each metro area, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), by the number of jobs in Juju’s index for the same metro area.
The figures utilized in this column are all taken from the Oregon Labor Market Information System (OLMIS) which is produced by the Oregon Department of Employment — a decidedly mislabeled agency. In addition to the statistical data, the department issues a press release and holds a press conference — the latter of which is recorded and preserved on their website (http://www.qualityinfo.org/olmisj/OlmisZine).
In December of 2007, Oregon reached its peak in private sector employment with 1,444,500 jobs. That number is arrived at by taking the Total Non-farm Employment (1,738,100) and reducing it by the total Government Employment (293,600). As of March of 2010, the private sector employment number stood at 1,290,600 down a total of 153,900. During that same period of time Oregon’s available labor force (the population over the age of eighteen) has grown by about 42,700.
The tragedy of the declining employment picture in Oregon is magnified by the apparent indifference of the Kulongoski administration. Not a single action has been undertaken by Gov. Kulongoski or his colleagues in the Democrat controlled legislature that could be remotely considered to improve Oregon’s employment picture.
Kulongoski continues to be enthralled by his “green dream” which to-date has simply been a drain on Oregon’s economy. The growth in wind power generation has been heavily subsidized by Oregon taxpayers and the vast majority of the subsidies have flowed to out-of-state manufacturers of the wind turbine blades and the wind turbine generators. The net result is that the dollars eaten up by taxes would otherwise be available to Oregon businesses to expand and create jobs locally.
The continuous drive towards higher taxes and fees creates a climate of uncertainty for businesses and discourages them from locating and/or growing their businesses. Oregon continues to see a steady outward migration of business expansion and businesses themselves. Those involved in production or manufacturing on a national or international basis so routinely turn their back on Oregon that other states now actively recruit existing businesses to relocate to their states.
The press conference accompanying the release of the March numbers reflected the administration’s indifference. Responding to a question from a reporter about what the state needs to do improve the job situation, the administration spokesperson basically responded that there was nothing they could do that they simply had to wait for something to happen on a national level.
Gov. Kulongoski is the least economically literate governor ever to hold office in modern times in Oregon. He lacks the education, training, experience and/or interest as to what drives an economy. Worse yet he has surrounded himself with public employee union leaders, environmental activists and party sycophants all of whom benefit by keeping the governor clueless. When the spokesperson said there was nothing they could do, she was reflecting the Kulongoski administration economic view and not the reality of the marketplace.
Other Western states have taken more aggressive actions with a result that their job numbers are growing — not shrinking. Arizona’s private sector workforce has grown by over 20,000 jobs since the first of the year. Idaho (about forty percent the size of Oregon) added six thousand private sector jobs during the same period. It is not the lack of success of efforts in Oregon; it is the lack of effort period.
There is a clear message to Oregon’s youth. If you willing to work hard and have a strong desire to succeed, get out now.
Following is a short list of things that could be done quickly to energize Oregon’s economy and at least signify a desire to attack the problem:
1. Create a tax free capital gains for all investments made for the next ten years and couple that with a reduction on capital gains tax to one-half of the current rates phased in over the next five years.
2. Accelerate depreciation schedules for all capital investments made to at least equal those utilized under federal income tax laws.
3. Create a tax credit for one-half of the amount that wages exceed federal minimum wage standards for each new job created from now until January 1, 2012.
4. Eliminate the state inheritance tax when passing a business to a spouse or lineal descendant.
Each recommendation preserves capital in the private sector that can be used for expansion and job creation. Each recommendation also sends a signal that the State of Oregon favors business growth rather than government growth.
But don’t hold your breath while the public employees unions continue to dominate Oregon politics.