in the Portland-metro economy
(10MB pdf)

During the last three decades, Portland-metro, like most regions of the United States, has experienced a decline in middle-income jobs. Driven largely by global market changes and technological advancements, jobs at the top and bottom ends of the labor market have grown, while middle-wage jobs, as a share of the overall workforce, have declined. The result is increased job and income polarization, a trend many policy makers are trying to address, here in Portland-metro and across the United States.

This is the first report on middle-income jobs by the Value of Jobs Coalition. Since 2010, the coalition has attempted to build a better understanding of the Portland-metro economy by producing data-based reports on regional economic trends and baseline economic factors. The goal is to show the importance of a strong private sector, supported by a healthy business community, to the regionís overall economic vitality. A vibrant economy with good jobs provides the funding for important public services like education, social safety nets, parks, roads and transit.

Building on previous studies undertaken by the coalition, this report seeks to illuminate what has happened to middle-income jobs over time, relative to the Value of Jobs comparator regions. The report also looks at where middle-income jobs cluster in the region, and where people who hold those jobs live.

Highlights of the findings include:

  • Portland-metro, like most of the nation, has seen low- and high-income jobs account for increasingly larger shares of the regionís overall employment base, while middle-income jobs, as a share of the regionís total employment, have dropped from 69 percent in 1980 to 57 percent in 2013.
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  • During that same period, wages for both middle- and low-income jobs have been stagnant. Portland-metroís income inequality index is lower than most of the comparator regions; however, adjusting for the regionís relatively higher cost of living, Portland-metroís middle wages provide families with less buying power than those in most comparator regions.
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  • Middle-income jobs are disproportionately concentrated in a few key geographic areas: in traditional industrial areas along the Columbia and Willamette rivers; near medical facilities; adjacent to Highways 26 and 217 where tech companies have developed; and in Vancouver, Washington.
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  • Affordability is an issue throughout Portland-metro, but problems are particularly acute within the city of Portland. Middle-income families are increasingly priced out of the center of the region - the heart of the city - clustering instead on the eastern end of Multnomah County; the western reaches of Washington County; and in Vancouver, Washington.

The data and analysis of this report were compiled by ECONorthwest for the Value of Jobs Coalition. Portland-metro in this report refers to the Metropolitan Statistical Area of Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA MSA.



Median Portland-metro wage.


The percentage share of middle-wage jobs in Portland-metroís overall employment base in 1980.


The percentage share of middle-wage jobs in Portland-metroís overall employment base in 2013.


Number of middle-income wage earners in Portland-metro in 2013.

185, 103, 47, 161.

Percentage growth of high-, upper-middle-, lower-middle- and low-wage jobs respectively from 1980 to 2013.


Household income needed by a family to purchase the median home in Portland-metro.