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.