Wednesday, April 27, 2016

High Labor Force Participation in Portland and the Columbia Gorge

After several years of decline, Oregon's labor force participation rate has stabilized over the past few years, and increased in recent months. Today we're taking a look at the county level to see how labor force participation rates vary across the state.

The labor force consists of two parts: those (ages 16 and up) who are employed, and those who do not have a job but are available to take a job, and have actively searched for one within the past four weeks. The labor force participation rate is the number of people in the labor force as defined above, divided by the total civilian (non-active military duty) noninstitutional (not in prison or the like) population ages 16 and older.

If you select one or more counties in the dynamic graph below, you can see the share of the population participating in the labor force for every year between 2000 and 2015.

In 2015, Hood River posted the highest labor force participation rate (75.5%) of any county in the state. The next-highest participation rates occurred in the Portland area: Washington County's rate was 67.4 percent, and Multnomah's was 66.0 percent. Hood River, Washington, and Multnomah counties also ranked among the top four counties in terms of labor force participation rates in 2000.

Hood River County's LFPR looked essentially the same in 2000 and 2015, but in most counties labor force participation rates dropped notably over the 15-year period. Multnomah County's participation rate fell by 7 percentage points, and Washington County's declined by nearly 10 points. Just three counties recorded higher labor force participation rates in 2015 than in 2000: Malheur, Sherman, and Wheeler.

Although Oregon has seen a recent slowing and even reversal of the falling labor force participation rate, the state's LFPR declined by almost 8 percentage points from 2000 and 2015. In the long term that declining trend is expected to continue, as the bulk of the Baby Boomers reach retirement age. That's paired with historically low labor force participation rates in younger age groups. More information about Oregon's labor force participation rate can be found in the Employment Department's full report on the topic.

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