Friday, June 9, 2017

Demographic Challenges for Rural Oregon's Workforce

The Oregon Employment Department recently released a special report entitled The Employment Landscape of Rural Oregon. Our examination of rural Oregon’s employment landscape shows a variety of factors have led to a slower recovery outside metropolitan areas. Demographic trends are among the most striking. Natural population growth is low, in-migration is slow, and young people often leave rural communities to seek educational or employment opportunities in urban centers.

Oregon’s rural communities are growing, just at a much slower pace than in urban centers. Net population change results from the combination of two factors: natural increase or decrease in a population (births minus deaths); and net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants). In-migration – new residents moving in – accounts for all of the population growth in rural Oregon between 2010 and 2016. Oregon’s 23 rural counties combined actually had a natural decrease, with 400 more deaths than births among residents. In metro counties, natural increase accounted for 33 percent of population gains between 2010 and 2016.

A lack of natural increase alone wouldn’t be troubling for the workforce pipeline in rural areas, so long as in-migration included working adults and children. Between 1995 and 2015, that does not appear to be the trend though. There are more than 35,000 additional workers ages 55 and older in rural Oregon today, an increase of 135 percent. Meanwhile, the rural prime working age and youth workforces are both smaller today than back in 1995.

Rural Oregon is in need of its next generation of leaders and could benefit from finding ways to alleviate the tendency toward aging that is a major challenge in many nonmetro areas. Read more about demographics and the workforce in rural Oregon in the full article at

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