This is Oregon Insight, the Oregonian’s weekly look at the numbers behind the state’s economy. See past payments here.
Incomes are rising all over Oregon, and so are wages.
That’s good news, obviously, and perhaps unexpected, given that revenues continued to grow through 2020 – the most brutal and deepest economic downturn in Oregon history. The earnings gains spread statewide, reaching all 36 counties, according to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.
The pandemic, however, has distorted many economic measures. And inflation devalues ââpart of this year’s wage gains. So the picture may not be as rosy as the numbers suggest.
Income includes wages but also other sources of money, including social security checks, returns on investment, unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.
Federal bills for pandemic relief last year played a big role in boosting revenues. While temporary federal unemployment premiums were in place, some people actually earned more while they were unemployed than they did while working.
The effects of federal payments were greatest in rural Oregon counties, where incomes are lower, and stimulus payments therefore had a larger impact in percentage terms.
Rural Oregon counties have also suffered fewer job losses than its urban centers. This is largely because they are less dependent on leisure and hospitality jobs that have been hampered by waves of pandemic shutdowns.
Income grew fastest in Gilliam and Morrow counties, both up more than 20% last year, and slowest in Washington and Clackamas counties, up 6%. Income in Multnomah County, the state’s largest, increased 8%.
A narrower measure of income, wage growth, shows a similar picture over the past decade. Erik Knoder, regional economist for the Oregon Department of Employment, finds that wages rose in each of the state’s counties between 2010 and 2020 at an average rate of 22% – even after accounting for l ‘inflation.
The average worker in Oregon earned nearly $ 60,000 last year, according to Knoder, $ 11,000 more than the average worker earned in 2010.
Klamath, Harney and Curry counties recorded the slowest growth (between 10% and 12%). Knoder notes that Klamath County has lost jobs in the relatively well-paying manufacturing, finance and professional services sectors.
Growth was fastest in Sherman, Morrow and Hood River counties (ranging from 32% to 56%). Knoder said construction and manufacturing has intensified in Sherman and Morrow counties, creating more professional jobs that support this work.
However, average salaries are just that – an average of all salaries. And since low-paying leisure and hospitality jobs are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, Knoder notes that tens of thousands of those workers had no jobs at all in 2020. So they’re not counted. in the average.
This has had the effect of inflating the state’s average wage in 2020, and it could reduce average wage earnings in the years to come as those hospitality jobs return.
Then there is inflation. It’s on everyone’s mind.
Prices rose at an annual rate of 6.8% in November, according to the latest national figures. Barely a factor in the years leading up to the pandemic, inflation now exceeds Oregon’s historic wage gains.
That’s all to say that most workers in Oregon seem in a better financial position now than they were at the start of the pandemic. But there are good reasons to question whether these gains will last.