A new report from the Oregon Employment Department covers employment and economic trends for 23 rural counties in Oregon. Recent job growth has been faster than the national average in many areas of the state. Unemployment rates are lower than at any time since 1990 in 14 rural counties and near record lows elsewhere.
Still, after seven years of uneven economic recovery, 17 out of Oregon’s 23 rural counties remain below peak employment. The Great Recession was worse in many rural Oregon counties than in metro Oregon. Nationally, the recession lasted from late 2007 until June 2009, but recovery continues today in many rural counties. The jobs that have returned in nonmetro counties have been largely low wage, while jobs in high-wage industries remain below pre-recession levels in rural areas.
Most rural counties face a two-part demographic challenge. A larger share of the rural workforce is at least 55 years old, while the rural population below age 18 shows long-term decline. The population in rural counties is growing slowly and aging quickly. On net, in-migration accounts for virtually all of the recent population growth.
In total, the 23 rural counties in Oregon had 238,000 jobs in 2016, 13 percent of the state’s job count. Job opportunities exist all around the state; many opportunities will be created in all areas of Oregon as today’s older workers retire.