Oregon’s Employment Picture Continues to Decline

Right From the Start


Just because you put syrup on it, doesn’t make it pancakes. –Unknown

 The March employment results are out and while the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis somehow finds encouraging signs of economic growth, the numbers show otherwise. In order to appreciate the dire straits in which Oregon finds itself, you must view Oregon’s employment numbers in context – both historically and comparatively.

Historically, from the peak of Oregon’s private sector employment in December of 2007 to the nadir, in December of 2009, 152,000 jobs were lost. From that nadir to the end of 2011, a mere 33,500 private sector jobs were recovered. That is an anemic 1,400 jobs per month and suggests that, if that trend can be maintained, it will take a little over nine years to get back to even. But let’s remember that during that same period of time, Oregon’s population has been increasing at a rate of about 41,000 per year between 2000 and 2010, which suggests that Oregon’s anemic job growth is not even keeping pace with population growth by a factor of 2.5. (For those of you forced to endure an education in Portland’s public school system, that means that population grew two and one-half times faster than job growth.) Add to that the fact that Oregon’s private sector employment has actually declined or remained static in five of the last six months and there is little cause for optimism.

Oregon state government has been touting the fact that unemployment has been dropping in Oregon for the past year but the demonstrable lack of growth in actual employment during that same period of time confirms the fact that Oregon’s decline in unemployment is due to benefit eligibility expiring and/or people simply giving up on the prospect of finding a job. Remember the unemployment numbers simply reflect those receiving a form of welfare payments from the state and reflect only a percentage of those actually unemployed.

There are technical measures for determining when a recession begins and ends. While those technical measures may satisfy the economists in academia (all of whom are generally immunized from the reality of economic downturns), those in the private sector world, having lost their jobs five years ago and looking at the reality of employment opportunities trailing population growth, understand that the recession is still very much a reality to them and their families.

And comparatively, Oregon’s anemic job growth looks even more pallid when compared to some of her sister states in the West. Arizona has added 14,200 job in the last six months. Colorado has added 21,500 and Washington has added 44,500. Even Idaho has added 12,900 on an employment base that is one-half the size of Oregon’s. Nearly two years ago, in response to some enterprising reporter, a spokesman for the Department of Employment stated that there was really nothing Oregon could do to stimulate job growth and Oregon would just have to wait until the nation began to recover. Apparently that statement is “no longer operable.” While the West is growing, Oregon is marking time.

But the situation is even more painful for Oregonians seeking work in hopes of feeding their families and achieving some financial stability. The jobs report indicates that, once again, Oregon lost jobs in its highest paying sectors. No growth in the Construction Sector. Two hundred jobs lost in the Manufacturing sector, Two hundred jobs lost in the Finance Sector. Eight hundred jobs lost in the Professional and Business Sector and another eight hundred jobs in the Health and Education Sector.

Virtually all of the employment gains were in the Leisure and Entertainment Sector – Arts, Entertainment and Recreation added 500 jobs and Accommodations and Food Services added one hundred. All of these are best described as minimum wage jobs. At first glance, the Trade, Transportation and Utilities Sector appeared to be a bright light but a quick look indicates that the jobs added mostly represented the same number of jobs lost the month before. And the other “bright light” – Other Services – added 900 jobs. This catchall sector is defined as:

“The Other Services (except Public Administration) sector comprises establishments engaged in providing services not specifically provided for elsewhere in the classification system. Establishments in this sector are primarily engaged in activities, such as equipment and machinery repairing, promoting or administering religious activities, grantmaking, advocacy, and providing drycleaning and laundry services, personal care services, death care services, pet care services, photofinishing services, temporary parking services, and dating services.”

As described, these services appear to fall under the category of minimum wage jobs also.

The net result is that Oregon continues to be on a path of anemic job growth which is outpaced by population growth and a changing job demographic of exchanging high paying jobs for minimum wage jobs. In a previous column I indicated that over one-half of the households in Oregon were dependent in whole or in part on government largesse for their incomes. Eight hundred thousand Oregonians on food stamps are about to become 880,000 by mid-summer. This is a predictable result of twenty-five years of Democrat rule and a drift towards a social welfare state. If you admire the way of life in Greece, or Spain or Italy, come to Oregon. If you would like a job, a future and economic stability, you might want to look elsewhere.