The Truth Behind Oregon’s Economic Numbers

Let’s start with the facts. The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a raft of economic data each month. That information contains a breakdown by state of employment growth and unemployment claims for every state including Oregon. It is data. It is politically neutral and represents, in part, the state of the economy. The “spin” on these facts is left to the politicians and the newspapers both in what they say and what they don’t say. Facts don’t lie.

So, as I said before, let’s start with the facts.
From January of 2006 to January of 2007, Oregon’s total jobs increased from 1,684,200 to 1,712,700. That’s an increase of 1.7%. In comparison, Washington grew jobs at the rate of 2.4%, Idaho at the rate of 3.8%, Nevada at the rate of 3.2%, Arizona at the rate of 4.2% and Utah at the rate of 3.3%. The January 2007 unemployment rate for Oregon was 5.2%. That compares to Washington at 5.1%, Idaho at 3.0%, Nevada at 4.5%, Arizona at 4.2%, and Utah at 2.6%. That national average was 4.2%. Only eight states in the nation, including the District of Columbia had higher unemployment rates than Oregon. Two of those states, Michigan and Ohio were hit hard by the massive layoffs in the automobile industry. In 2006, only seven states had higher unemployment rates than Oregon.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of job growth in broad categories of employment. From January 2006 to January 2007, Oregon lost 800 jobs in Natural Resources and Mining, 2500 jobs in Construction, and 2200 jobs in Manufacturing for a total job loss of 5500. At the same time, Oregon increased employment in the Leisure and Hospitality sector by 8100 jobs. Of course, Government continued to grow by 1800 jobs.

Now, those are the facts. You can categorize the facts for yourself. For those heavily invested in the economic policies of Governor Kulongoski you can, as the Oregonian did this past week, headline this as unusually robust employment growth. In doing so you can ignore all of the comparative data for the nation and for the states surrounding Oregon and with whom Oregon competes directly. You can ignore other economic data such as the fact that the state’s highly touted entrepreneurial $100M fund could only place seven percent of that money in Oregon businesses. You could ignore the anecdotal information about businesses that have left Oregon or the wealthy business leaders who have retired and moved across the river to Washington to avoid Oregon’s tax burden. In doing so you can join a long list of liberals who seem to think you can ignore economic realities and live in a land of milk and honey without effort or care. It is the moral equivalent of believing you can pick up dog poop by the clean end.

Or you can take a more pessimistic, more realistic view that notes that Oregon continues to be mired at the bottom of the heap. That while a strong national economy has boosted all parts of the nation, Oregon continues its lack luster performance. That Oregon’s inattention to its anti-business environment, its business chilling high tax burdens, its tax and spend legislatures, its excessive regulatory burdens, has deterred businesses from locating, growing or remaining in Oregon.

You could go further and note that while there has been a modest growth in over all jobs over the past year, that growth has come at the expense of high paying manufacturing, construction and natural resource jobs. You could note that almost all of Oregon job growth has occurred in the minimum wage jobs attendant to the leisure and hospitality industries. You could conclude that Oregon is rapidly increasing, through its job shifts, the gap between the rich and the poor. You could conclude that if you are a skilled worker, you should look elsewhere than Oregon. But, if you are looking for employment as a waiter, cook, dishwasher, janitor, maid, domestic or gardener, Oregon is your place — particularly Portland where the trust fund rich are providing tons of opportunity for people to wait on their every need.

Like I said before. Facts don’t lie, only those who would manipulate the facts. In the world of politics, lies can be told by misstating the facts OR by leaving facts out. Now you have the facts, you make your own judgment.

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Posted by at 06:56 | Posted in Measure 37 | 13 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    I think Oregon might be a lost cause. As middle and upper class folks retire in Oregon, I think they really have to look at Washington, Nevada and some other states as a domicile. A large portion of these folks’ income comes in the form of capital gains, dividends, interest, and pension income (other than PERS retirees). They are probably not big spenders. So, avoiding Oregon’s 9% income tax really becomes attractive even at the expense of paying some sales taxes like in Washington. Moreover, anyone interested in passing on an estate to their heirs, should avoid Oregon and its estate tax which runs from 2% to 16% on total estate or trust assets.

  • Jerry

    Larry is correct in his assessment. Oregon is tax heavy and very unfriendly to business. People know this and leave the state. Our politicos should be ashamed of the horrible way they have mismanaged the state.
    It truly is a lost cause. That is why no healthy, strong businesses are moving here. Other healthy, strong ones have already gone.
    What a complete joke – to even imagine there are people stupid enough to think everything is going OK in Oregon.
    Most PERS retirees take off, by the way, and spend out money somewhere else.
    Is there no shame?

  • Wayne Floyd

    Good write up. My wife and I moved back to Oregon in 2002 after a 25 year absence due to military service and an out of state job. We moved back to take care of her dad and to retire here in a couple of years. We were shocked at the high cost of living we encountered, the taxes, the regulation, and the lack of jobs. Its not the Oregon we left in the early 80s.

    We moved here from the Atlanta GA area and saw a 20% increase in total living costs when we bought a home in the Salem area.

    We had wanted to purchase some property and build our retirement home but after searching for the last year I dont think we can afford it. So we have decided that after her dad is gone we will move to another state to retire. We are really going to miss Oregon but I think its just going to get worse here from a cost of living stand point.

    I think there will only be three classes of people in Oregon in a few years if things continue going the same way – Rich Retirees, Government Workers, and low pay service providers.

    What a shame.

  • Jerry

    Wayne – you are absolutely correct. We are leaving Oregon and moving to Arkansas. Never thought we would after 30 years in Oregon, but we are. And for the very reasons you site. We refuse to live in a wealth-redistribution, communist-like state. And, we are not alone. Check the numbers sometime on who is leaving. It is, in many cases, successful people who are not a burden at all on the government – and guess who is moving to Oregon??

  • John Fairplay

    Portland, in particular, is on its way to becoming another Detroit. The much-touted “creative class” that the city is supposedly attracting are just now finding out they can’t earn enough money to afford to live in the city. Surprise!

    The level of denial at the Oregonian and in the Legislature is truly astounding. Perhaps Portland should consider changing its name to Starnesville.

  • believeitornot

    15 years of self-destructive infighting is the reason that Oregon has one of the lowest credit ratings in the nation. The minumum corporate income tax remained unchanged since 1931 until this years legislative session. Oregon has one of the highest capital gains taxes in the nation. Oregon continues to rely too heavily on the income tax paid disproportionately by individual households. No new taxes robots need to address the inequalities of Oregon’s tax system. Oregon has one of the highest, least progressive personal income tax rates in the USA because everyone earning more than $10,000 a year pays the full 9.1% rate that the wealthiest do.

    • Steven Plunk

      Why do people continue on about the corporate”minimum” tax? When corporations make a profit they pay more tax. When they lose money where is the fairness of paying any tax at all? There certainly is no minimum tax paid by Oregon workers who make very little.

      I suppose there are still those who believe that large corporations get away with not paying taxes through tricky accounting. Get educated, it’s all timing differences that eventually catch up and the taxes are paid. This is usually in just a couple of years.

      With expected revenues approaching 20% more than the last budget period why are we talking higher taxes in any form? It’s the spending. Try pushing a tax decrease to those who make just over $10,000 a year and see how far the Dems will let that go.

  • Bad Boy Brown

    I am planning to retire in about three years from now. As a small business owner in Portland for the past 18+ years I am fully convinced that Oregon is an economic backwater that will only get worse in years to come.
    I already know that we will be leaving Oregon for good as soon as I liquidate or sell my business. If I wasn’t already fully invested in a long term business I would leave tomorrow. There are lots of places that offer better climates and housing than Oregon at similar or lower prices.

  • Dave A.

    John Fairplay has hit the nail on the head regarding the so-called “creative class” in Portland. I’ve owned a profitable media company here for the past 15 years, and always get hit up at industry functions by people desperate for jobs. The simple fact that many of them are taking minimum wage jobs far removed from the field they were trained in speaks volumes about the local economy. I hope I never meet some of the economic idiots such as Joe Cortright always quoted by the dummies at the Oregonian. I will not only give him an earful about what a clueless SOB he is regarding the media industry, but also a swift kick in the seat.
    One last item – having just come back from a business trip to the east coast it’s readily apparent that the Oregonian is a pathetic excuse for a news source.

  • Jerry

    Don’t worry about the Oregonian…they are running themselves out of business for us. The idiots.
    Isn’t it great??

  • eagle eye

    So Oregon’s unemployment rate is 5.2% and the state most comprable to it, Washington, is 5.1% Statistically indistinguishable. This is supposed to be a horror story?

    • billh

      I think what needs to be done is to look at the # of jobs in washington state paying over, say $100,000 vs that same # in Oregon. You would be shocked. you could even do it per capita and be shocked more. Remembers WA has a great deal of high paying defense jobs and bases, add in all of their fortune 500 hq’s and the tech industry and you’ll see more than the unemp rates. Why saxton didnt focus on Oregon’s 3rd world economy in the election is beyond me.

      • eagle eye

        I’m almost sure you’re right about the portion of high-paying jobs in Washington. There are so many reasons Oregon lags. I’m convinced that one of the biggest — maybe the one that overrides everything else — is that an awful lot of people here are happy the way it is. Mediocrity in most things seems to be what people here are comfortable with.

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