2012 Report Summary
(1.6MB pdf)

When our organizations came together three years ago, our goal was to get a better understanding of the Portland-metro economy. With the help of ECONorthwest, we have documented trends in employment and incomes, including the steep declines from the 2008 recession, and disturbing downward trends in personal income that started well before that time.

This 2012 report has welcome good news: Portland-metro has gained back about 60 percent of the jobs we lost since August 2008.

Our recovery has garnered national media attention, with Slate Magazine calling it a “renaissance.” The Brookings Institution ranked Portland-metro 9th among the top 100 metros in the nation for our recovery, and Arizona State University’s “Job Growth USA” put us among the top 20 metros for job growth over the last two years.1

This report takes a look at where that job recovery has occurred, and we find some encouraging highlights. Jobs in construction grew considerably, driven clearly by the work at Intel, as well as the Oregon University System facility at South Waterfront, light rail construction and other projects. Employment gains also were made in food service and retail, reflecting renewed consumer confidence.

In the critical traded-sector industries, such as manufacturing, there also was improvement, although employment still remains below pre-recession levels. As we know from our earlier reports, these trade-based jobs pay better, on average, than local-sector jobs and bring new dollars into the region which, in turn, buoys spending at local-sector businesses.

So, there is clearly good news, but our recovery is not complete. Portland fell further than the national average for metro areas, so we will have a longer climb out than other parts of the country. And, most importantly, we continue to lag in wages and incomes. That impacts families and public services, especially in an income-tax-dependent state like Oregon. When wages and incomes fall, that means less tax revenue to support schools, public safety and all the important services we depend upon.

What does this all mean? Certainly we should celebrate that we have had success, but we must also recognize that there is still a long ways to go. The excellent economic development work launched over the last few years must continue, even when we think times are better; and we cannot take our eye off of growing traded-sector and export-driven industries. We urge policy-makers to continue to support these efforts because that is how we will build a sustainable and strong regional economy.



The rank of Portland-metro out of the top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the growth of Gross Metropolitan Product between mid-2009 and mid-2012.


The number of jobs lost from August 2008 to August 2009, which is the baseline job loss number used in this report.


The number of jobs added back between August 2009 and August 2012, with nearly all of this job creation occurring in 2011 and 2012.


The percentage of the 42,700 new jobs that are in manufacturing and professional and business services, key traded-sector industries.


The percentage by which Portland-metro’s median household income fell between 2008 and 2011.

$4,000, $8,000 & $9,000.

The amount by which Portland-metro’s median household income trails those of Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle respectively.


The percent by which Portland-metro’s per capita income is below the U.S. metro average.