Introduction

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2015 Report Summary
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The Portland-metropolitan area’s economic performance in 2015 can be summed up in four words: More of the same.

In this seventh year of recovery after the Great Recession, Portland-metro is repeating the trends seen in the region’s economic history. When the recession began in 2007, Portland-metro fell faster and harder than comparable metro regions across the U.S. And when recovery began in 2009, the region grew jobs faster than the national average.

Between September 2008 and September 2009, the darkest period of the Great Recession, Portland-metro lost 72,900 jobs. By September 2015, the region had not just regained all of the lost jobs, but it had actually seen significant job growth: the 2015 job count showed 70,700 more jobs than there were in 2007, right before the recession started to erode employment.

Portland also continues to lead in productivity growth, driven largely by the region’s very strong electronics industry. The importance of that industry to our economy is also seen in the region’s strong export performance, once again demonstrating the importance of trade to the Portland-metro economy.

Despite the very good news about job growth, productivity and exports, the region’s median household income was stagnant from 2013 to 2014, and the 2014 total was still only 95 percent of the Portland-metro median household income in 2007. In addition, the region’s per capita income continues to lag the national average for metro areas as it has done since well before the recession began. Using a Regional Price Parity model to adjust incomes to cost of living, Portland-metro is falling further behind in the ability of household incomes to meet the increasing cost of living, making the region more and more unaffordable.

Since the Value of Jobs Coalition began looking at the Portland-metro economy in 2010, a persistent issue in every report has been household incomes and per capita wages, and it is particularly troubling that wages have not rebounded even as jobs have surged back.

When considering the future prosperity of Portland-metro families, there has been much discussion around the minimum wage, but earning the “minimum” is not the same as prospering. It is time to put a laser focus on why incomes have not recovered, why the region is increasingly unaffordable and what needs to be done. Is it:

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  • The mix of jobs in the region? Are there sufficient middle-income jobs that offer families a pathway out of poverty to prosperity?
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  • Education? Are we properly training workers – or retraining displaced workers – to prepare them for family-wage jobs of the future?
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  • The business environment? Are we a region that is open to business development – and job creation – that will lead to retention and creation of more middle-income jobs?
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  • Cost of living? Are we making policy decisions that unnecessarily make it more difficult for families to afford to live here?

This report is a point-in-time look at the Portland-metro economy. The challenge ahead is how we take the information and use it to answer the questions above. The partners in the Value of Jobs Coalition are committed to working together to address these questions and doing our part to make the region a place where families can thrive.



2015
BY THE NUMBERS:

35,800

The number of new jobs added in Portland-metro from September 2014 to September 2015.

4.4

The percent increase in traded-sector jobs over pre-recession levels, outpacing the U.S. metro average.

9th

The national ranking of Portland-metro’s growth in regional Gross Metropolitan Product since the depth of the recession.

75

The percentage of Portland-metro exports from the manufacturing sector, compared to 59 percent nationally.

$1,821

The amount by which Portland-metro per capita income trails the U.S. metro average in 2014.

$120

The total growth in Portland-metro’s real median household income between 2013 and 2014.

95

The percentage of Portland-metro real median household income compared to 2007 levels.

19

The percentage more that Portland-metro’s lowest 20 percent of households earn compared to the U.S. metro average.

47.9

The percentage of the population employed in full-time jobs in Portland-metro in 2014, down from 53 percent in 2000.