The Portland Metropolitan region has shown robust
employment gains over the 30-year period from 1970
to the 1990s. The region more than doubled the number
of jobs in all sectors, from around 500,000 to over
1 million. Nationally, manufacturing declined in
the 1990s, but the Portland region experienced more
than a 25% gain in employment in this sector. In
the past, the regionís diversity among sectors has
provided insulation against the cyclical extremes
of boom and bust cycles that have occurred in some
cities (1). In the 1990s, the
region was more subject to national trends.
Currently, the Portland economy highlights many
vulnerabilities. Like other cities, Portland has
continued to lose headquarter status of many national
companies. While the greater number of manufacturing
jobs has generated growth and higher income levels,
it has also made Portland more susceptible to a
cyclical economy. In addition, the absence of a
top tier research university directs much public
and private funding elsewhere (2).
As the Portland region emerged from the recession
that hit in 2000 and 2001, it added jobs to its
economy. Today the region has more jobs than ever.
However, the structure of those jobs has changed.
Since 1990, the share of manufacturing jobs in the
region has fallen from 17.1 percent to 12.5 percent
today, though the overall number has increased.
At the same time, the share of jobs in the service
sector has expanded. Manufacturing is becoming less
labor intensive, and services are becoming moreso;
however, their shares of statewide economic output
have remained relatively stable in recent decades.
This has changed the requirements for getting a
good job in our economy.
Portland has distinguished itself in many ways,
making it a desirable place to live and work. Portland
ranks 13th in educational attainment in cities,
with almost 39% of Portlanders over age 25 holding
a bachelors degree or higher (3).
An educated workforce is a necessary resource for
high-tech and high-skill businesses. Portland ranks
in the top five, and often in the top two, in many
national rankings looking at everything from biking
and walking to dog ownership, sustainability, library
circulation, local food and best places to live
and visit (4). A livable community
is a draw for new people, and Portland has seen
its population grow while many other regions in
the country are shrinking, especially among the
25-34 age group.
Portland has a diverse economy. Small businesses
(fewer than 50 employees) make up over 40% of the
jobs within Portland city limits (5).
The Portland region has a large number of nonprofit
organizations Ė 2,740 at last count Ė which employ
over 73,000 people, or 9% of the Portland regional
workforce (6). Of these, 14%
of nonprofit employers are in the health services
sector, employing about half of nonprofit workers.
Portland as a region has developed many business
clusters that attract income from outside the region.
Creative services, high-tech products, metal products,
food processing and many more make up our traded
sector industries. In addition to drawing workforce
talent, Portlandís role as a West Coast trade gateway
for marine, rail and air transportation has helped
to drive the development of its industry clusters.
These companies provide somewhere between one-quarter
to one-third of the economic activity and employment
in the region. There is general agreement that encouraging
existing and emerging clusters will strengthen and
diversify the regionís economy.
This diversity and livability does not always translate
into successful employment for all segments of society.
In 2000, Portlandís median household income ranked
32nd among the 100 largest US cities, experiencing
substantial growth in the 1990s. Portlandís poverty
rate also declined in the 1990s and was significantly
below that of most large US cities. The recession
earlier this decade reversed some of that progress.
- While unemployment in the region has decreased
from its high of 8.3% during 2003 to around 5%
in 2007, the rate is still above the nation as
a whole (4.6% in August 2007).
- Median incomes have largely remained flat since
2001, while the poverty rates have increased,
sometimes sharply (7).
- In 2005, 17.4% of individuals in Multnomah County
were below the federal poverty line, up from 12.7%
in 2000. For Portland, the numbers were similar:
17.8% in 2005, up from 13.1% in 2000.
- The poverty line in 2007 is about $20,000 for
a family of four.
Growing housing, food and health care costs create
greater economic challenges for Portland area families
and individuals, and will likely continue to do
so into the future.
- City of
Portland Bureau of Planning, ďPortland Present,Ē
Census Bureau, 2005 American Community Survey.
Portland Development Commissionís Portland Praises
web page: http://www.pdc.us/bus_serv/praises/default.asp
of Portland Bureau of Planning
on nonprofits from http://www.OregonInvolved.org
of Portland Metropolitan Studies, ďMetropolitan
Briefing Book 2007,Ē pp24-25.
Here to view a chart depicting the
total metropolitan non-farm employment, seasonally
adjusted from 2001 through 2006.