Change in Employment

Prior to the current recession, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) showed strong employment growth relative to the United States as a whole. Employment growth in the Portland MSA was very strong from mid-2003, as we recovered from the last recession, until May of 2008, when employment peaked before beginning a decline that would last through 2009. The region was hit harder by the recession than similar MSAs. In the past two years, however, employment numbers in the MSA have increased and, in 2011, annual average employment increased by 1.1 percent.

Between October 2011 and October 2012, there was positive growth in total non-farm employment in five out of seven counties in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA MSA. Multnomah County experienced the highest growth at 1.9 percent, followed by Washington County and Clark County, both of which experienced growth of 1.8 percent. Yamhill and Skamania Counties experienced negative growth in total non-farm employment during this period.

Just five of the nine core sectors in our MSA experienced growth in the number of employees between October 2012 and October 2012. Manufacturing grew more than any other sector, with an increase of 3.7 percent, followed by retail trade which increased 2.4 percent. Health Care and Social Assistance decreased 0.3 percent and Government decreased 1.2 percent.change in employment

Indicators: Community College Access

Community colleges offer accessible high school completion programs (GEDs and high school diplomas), post-secondary certificates and 2-year associate degrees, job training, and continuing education opportunities to our region’s residents. When compared with the academic year full-time undergraduate in-state tuitions at the two local public undergraduate universities (Portland State University and Washington State University, Vancouver), community college tuitions are about half of the cost. Yearly tuitions at our community colleges for academic year 2013-2014, at approximately $4,000, were less than a tenth of some of the region’s elite private institutions such as Lewis and Clark College and Reed ($41,928 and $46,010 respectively)(National Center for Education Statistics).

Not surprisingly, given the broad range of ages and purposes that community colleges serve, Clackamas, Clark, Mt. Hood, and Portland community colleges enrolled nearly 64,000 students in fall of 2012. While their unique portfolio of programs make them difficult to compare with public universities, that number represents nearly three times the undergraduate enrollment of Portland State University, the state’s largest 4-year university.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most of the associates degrees granted in all of our community colleges (in 2012-2013) were in liberal arts and sciences, with health professions and business related majors vying for second place. Engineering and engineering technology ranked third. The category of “Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services,” while not offered everywhere represented a significant number (at 96) of associates degrees awarded at Portland Community College in 2012-2013.

Indicators: Urban Coyotes

Coyotes are an increasingly common sight in cities across the Portland region. Since 2010, more than 8,000 coyote sightings have been reported to the Portland Urban Coyote Project. As coyote sightings increase, this group of researchers at PSU is working to better understand the relationship between humans and coyotes. Founded in 2010, the Urban Coyote Project is a partnership between the Portland State University Geography Department and the Audubon Society of Portland. The project trains citizen scientists to report coyote signings in the Portland metropolitan region. Coyotes are increasingly coming into the densest urban areas. Between 2014 and 2018, nine coyote sightings were reported within the I405 loop. Four of the sightings were during the day, including two within seven blocks of Portland City Hall. An increase in sightings reflects both an increase in the number of coyotes venturing into the city and an increase in awareness of the coyote project. As more people learn about the project, they are more likely to report sightings when they occur. To learn more about the project and see a point level map of coyote sightings, visit 

Indicators: CUPA’s Reach

The footprint of Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA), since its founding, has reached far beyond the Pacific Northwest to the nation and the world. As its programs and reputation developed, the number of yearly graduates grew from two in 1972, when Dr. Toulan became dean, to a high of 695 in 2012. CUPA graduates live and work in all 50 states and 24 nations outside of the U.S. Out of a total of 8,727 graduates between 1972 and 2013, nearly half (48 percent) obtained Master of Public Administration degrees, 19 percent obtained Master of Urban and Regional Planning degrees, 15 percent graduated with Master of Public Health degrees, and 8 percent achieved doctoral degrees. The remaining 10 percent are divided among Master of Urban Studies and Master of Science degrees, and graduate certificates.


Housing Affordability and a $15 Minimum Wage


Source: HUD; US Department of Labor

Housing affordability is a concern for many families in the Portland region. Even as new residential construction is picking up, low-income individuals and families are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable housing close to jobs and public amenities. A lack of affordable housing can lead to increases in social, racial, and economic segregation. Residents living in areas of concentrated poverty tend to have fewer opportunities for employment, less access to quality education, and less safe neighborhoods. Neighborhood affluence is also one of the most powerful predictors of physical health.

Oregon and Washington have two of the highest minimum wages in the country. Both, however, are significantly lower than the wage needed to afford a two-bedroom home at the region’s fair market rent (FMR). A proposal to increase the minimum wage in Portland has the potential to improve the situation for some families but many would still fall far below the affordable housing threshold.

A household with one full time worker earning $15.00 per hour would not be able to afford a one, two, three, or four bedroom home at the area’s fair market rent. A household with two full time workers each earning $15.00 per hour would be able to afford all but the four bedroom home.

Indicators: Library Usage

Source: Institute of Museum and Library Science, Oregon Library Support and Development, Washington State Library

Public libraries provide free access to information to all community members regardless of race, ethnicity, income, disability, and age, and are a source of arts and culture for children and adults. A strong and well-utilized public library system is essential for developing an informed population. The books, lectures, and computers provided by libraries provide all populations with a means of continuing their education outside of educational institutions.

The latest library usage data available shows that in 2016, residents in Multnomah County borrowed on average twenty-five materials from libraries that year. While Multnomah County library users borrow more compared to state and national trends, this marks a decline from previous years. Multnomah County still remains one of the most active counties in the country with the nation’s second highest circulation rate.((Institute of Museum and Library Science, 2017.)) Library circulation is up in Clackamas, Washington, and Yamhill Counties and holding steady in Columbia County, Oregon, and Washington while Clark and Skamania counties experienced a slight decline.

Today, libraries are being used in very different ways from in the past. More users are coming to libraries to use technological services (like Wi-Fi) rather than to borrow hard copy or print materials. Program attendance at libraries is also increasing. In short, libraries are staying busy, but just in different ways.

Indicators: Average Wage per Job

Portland MSA as a percentage of the US metro average wage, 2001-2015

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table CA30

Across the region, the average wage per job as a percentage of the US Metro Wage per Job has been increasing since 2013. In 2015, the average wage per job in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro MSA was 107 percent of the average wage per job in the Metro United States. However, of the region’s seven counties, just two have an average wage per job higher than the US Metro average wage ($55,102): Multnomah County ($54,393) and Washington County ($57,057). Skamania County has consistently had the lowest average wage, just 71% of the US Metro in 2015.

Indicators: The Young, the Old, and the Single


Households in our region are changing. Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of households with children decreased while one-person households increased. In some, but not all counties, the percentage of households that included seniors also increased.

In 2010, 32 percent of households in the Portland MSA included children, down from 35 percent in 1990. The decreases ranged from 4 percent in Washington County to 13 percent in Skamania County. But the largest decreases, across all geographic areas, took place between 2000 and 2010. Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of households that included individuals 65 or older fluctuated.

The percentage decreased for all geographic areas shown here between 1990 and 2000, although the decrease was minimal for the nation as a whole. From 2000 to 2010, it increased between 1 and 4 percent in all counties except Multnomah County,  where the percentage decreased by 4 percent. In 2010, Yamhill and Columbia counties had the highest percentages of households with seniors.

While the percentage of one-person households increased in all seven counties, with the largest increases in Skamania and Clackamas counties, the percentage of one-person households in Multnomah County increased least. Multnomah County, however, is the only county in the region where over 30 percent of households were one-person households in 1990, 2000 and 2010.

Indicators: Equity


The past two years have been marked by protests against police violence across the country. The protests, and resulting media coverage, cast a spotlight on persistent racial disparities in economic status and disproportionate contact with law enforcement. Cities across the country are looking inward to assess equity within their own communities. In an equitable community, all individuals, regardless of “markers of difference,” including but not limited to race, ethnicity, income, disability, and age, have equal privilege and opportunity to access the basic needs, services, skills, and assets required to succeed in life. Economic and social indicators show many communities of color in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro Metropolitan Statistical Area have less access to educational and economic resources while experiencing disproportionate contact with law enforcement.

Between 2000 and 2010, the population of the Portland region increased 15 percent. Populations of color, however, grew at a much faster rate. The Hispanic population nearly doubled, while Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders saw an increase of 67 percent, and Asians 50 percent.

Children of color are more likely to live in poverty than their white peers. Between 2011 and 2013, roughly 17 percent of kids in the Portland MSA were living below the poverty line. In 2013, white and Asian* children were significantly less likely to live in poverty than their black or African American, Hispanic, or Native Hawaiian peers. Some of the populations with the fastest rates of growth are also those whose children are most likely to live in poverty.

Children of color are also more likely to have experience with the juvenile justice system. In 2012, black or African American juveniles were four times as likely to be arrested as their white peers.

Rates of adult educational attainment are closely tied to child poverty. With the exception of Asians, populations of color are less likely to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Hispanics and Native Hawaiians, the two groups experiencing the highest population growth, have some of the lowest rates of educational attainment, 15 percent and 11 percent respectively.

Household income is strongly correlated with adult educational attainment. Between 2011 and 2013, populations with the highest rates of educational attainment had the highest median household incomes. Hispanics, blacks and African Americans, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaskan Native households earned between 61 percent and 67 percent of the median white household income.

Faced with less access to financial resources and a legacy of exclusionary lending practices, it is not surprising that, with the exception of Asians, populations of color in the Portland MSA are much less likely to own their home than their white counterparts. At nearly 65 percent, the rate of homeownership for whites is nearly double that of black or African Americans (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), and people identifying as some other race (29 percent) and nearly triple that of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (23 percent).

The pattern of disproportionate involvement with the criminal justice system is evident with adults as well as juveniles and is particularly striking for blacks, who are two to three time more likely to be incarcerated, on probation, or parole.

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Indicators: Source of Downpayment


Source: US Census, American Housing Survey

Rising home prices are leaving some Portland MSA residents out of the housing market. What gives some people access to homeownership while others are left out? One factor is the ability to pay a competitive down payment. In 2015, just 6.9 percent of the owner-occupied homes purchased in the Portland MSA were bought outright. The majority of home purchases (70.9%) involved a down payment. The source of down payment for more than three quarters of the purchases of owner-occupied units was the sale of a previous home (36.8%) or savings or cash on hand (40.3%). Home buyers in the Portland MSA relied more heavily on the sale of their previous home to finance a down payment than homebuyers in the San Francisco MSA (27.9%), the Seattle MSA (30.3%), or the United States (26.5%). Home buyers in Portland were less likely to rely on the sale of another investment to finance their down payment (0.6%) than homebuyers in Seattle (1.1%), San Francisco (1.6%), or the United States (0.8%). They used inheritance or gifts more often than home buyers in other areas, 4.7 percent in Portland compared to between 2.5 percent and 3 percent in Seattle, San Francisco, and the United States.