Portland Metro Area Had Largest Loss of Employment Among U.S. Cities Over Past


In absolute terms, the Portland metro area’s economy looks pretty darn good, according to recent figures. But relative to other places, it leaves something to be desired.

The unemployment rate in the metro area stood at 4.2% in March, up slightly from 4.1% in March 2023, according to the April report from the Oregon Employment Department. That’s well below the 10-year average of 5%.

But step back a month (to get comparable figures for other cities) and look at total employment instead of the unemployment rate, and things look a little different. Employment in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metropolitan area fell 1.5% in February from a year earlier, state economist Jake Procino noted in an email to subscribers on April 30.

That, according to Procino, was the biggest loss among the top 50 metro areas. Portland fared worse than Memphis (-1.3%), Milwaukee (-0.8%), San Jose, Calif. (-0.5) and San Francisco (-0.2%). Employment grew in all other urban centers, topped by Las Vegas (+3.4%), Raleigh (+2.8%), Sacramento (+2.8%) and Austin (+2.8%).

The report is another piece of grim news for a town that’s struggling to get its mojo back after the pandemic, 2020′s riots, ire over new local taxes, and a surge in open-air fentanyl use. Reports from commercial brokers regularly show downtown Portland as among the most vacant places nationwide.

Portland employers have been cutting workers. Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Wieden + Kennedy have all announced layoffs recently, according to a roundup of downsizings by Axios.

Another reason employment isn’t growing, Procino says: lackluster in-migration. Newcomers juiced the Portland economy for years before 2020. Lately, the Oregon Trail isn’t quite as busy, statistics show.

“There aren’t as many people immigrating to the region to be hired as in the past,” Procino said in an email.

County-by-county figures confirm Portland’s malaise. Total employment fell 0.4% in Multnomah County in March while rising 2.1% in fast-growing Deschutes County. Even timber-dependent Douglas County, home to Roseburg, eclipsed Multnomah. Total employment there rose 0.9% in March. Clackamas County grew 0.4%.

This article was originally published by a www.wweek.com

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