Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Mid-Willamette Valley's Mixed Economic Recovery

The economic recovery in the Mid-Willamette Valley has been quite uneven at the county level.

Benton County has been a bright spot in Oregon's recovery. A big reason for the less severe employment downturn in Benton County has to do with its industry structure. State government employment in Benton County proved to be very stable through the economic downturn. It comprises roughly 24 percent of the county's total employment; the sector is dominated by Oregon State University. Oregon State's enrollment hit a new all-time high during the 2010-2011 school year. With Oregon State's enrollment growing in recent years, Benton County's state government employment grew 840, or 10 percent, from January 2008 to January 2011.

Although job losses in Salem slowed in 2010 and 2011, the Salem economy continued to shed jobs and has not seen the boost in employment that the state experienced in the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. Salem's housing market continues to be a drag on the economy. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors ranked Salem as the third worst housing market for U.S. metropolitan areas.

Linn County is known for its strong manufacturing sector, but losses in manufacturing and construction, and a relatively small public sector compared to its neighboring counties, led to a dramatic downturn in employment. Linn County's employment bottomed out in the summer of 2009 after losing more than 4,600 jobs, or 11 percent of total employment from February 2008 to August 2009. Employment has been fairly stable since that time, but the county struggled to realize significant employment growth in 2010 or 2011.

Read more about the mid-Willamette Valley economy in the full article, written by Regional Economist Pat O'Connor.

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