The first Government and Economic Affairs meeting of the year was January 13 with a well received presentation by Christian Kaylor, a state of Oregon economist specializing in the Portland area. He discussed jobs, population growth, wages and compared Portland to other cities around the nation.
Portland ranks #10 in wage growth in a list of the 50 largest cities. We experienced a 3.3% wage growth and continued a trend that has added over 131,000 jobs in the past 5 years. Cities with high tech industries tend to have higher wages and more growth. Portland did benefit from the number of software companies in the area.
When you look at the average wages, Portland is seeing growth. However the picture is much different when the jobs are separated into three different categories. Christian showed a clear picture of the growth of high paying jobs, a good growth in low paying jobs but no growth in the “Middle Class”, middle wage jobs. This phenomenon helps explain why food stamps and social services are increasing, even though the “average” is looking better.
Another point that the data demonstrated is that Multnomah county is outpacing job growth of neighboring counties by a significant amount. More people are choosing to move to Multnomah county and work in Portland than Washington County and Clackamas County combined over the past two years. We also saw data that showed average wages highest in downtown Portland and dropping as you look further east, with Gresham having the lowest average wages in the region.
This was an informative and entertaining presentation about the economic facts in our region. Kaylor has the ability to demonstrate his excitement over the data and explain what it means, and mix it with humor and experience.