Every day brings new signs that Oregon has emerged from the depths of the recession. The economy has produced 6,100 new jobs each month since November. February's unemployment rate was 5.6%, down from 6.4% a year ago. And state revenue coffers have netted a $665 million windfall (which, as Russell Sadler discussed here, will be sadly squandered thanks to the Kicker).
But compared to the rest of the country, though, Oregon is still lagging. That's the message from the 2005 Milken Index of Best Performing Cities.
The Milken Index rates 200 large cities and 179 small metropolitan areas in terms of their ability to produce and retain jobs. It measures job, technology, wage and salary growth over both a five-year and one-year time frame. Not surprisingly, cities in Florida, California and the Southwest continue to dominate rankings, with their exploding service sectors, healthy tourism industries, an influx of retirees, and growing overall populations. Also predictable, the Midwest brought up the rear, with Michigan and Ohio contributing 9 of the bottom 10 major metro areas.
For the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton region, the picture is mixed. The area is in the middle of the pack, ranked 95th in the Milken Index. Portland did jump 25 spots since the 2004, showing both the quick pace of the recovery and the depths of the Oregon recession. (In 2003, the Portland area ranked 141st, but in 2002 was as high as 55th.) While helped by its 2005 job growth and highly-ranked high tech sector, the region's dismal five-year job performance (164th of 200) weighed down the Portland metro area. Other Oregon cities were also in the middle of the large metro rankings. Eugene came in at 96th (up from 81 last year), while Salem dropped 30 places to number 100.
The explosive growth of Bend is reflected in the Milken ratings. Bend came in 2nd in the index of smaller cities, with Medford ranked 26th out of 179. Corvallis came in 117th.
Yes, the Oregon is definitely headed in the right direction. But there's still a long way to go.
UPDATE: For more information regarding how Oregon compares to other states across a range of economic, education, demographic, governmental and other indicators, see the Oregon Business Plan 2006 Competitive Index. For a library of other sources of economic and demographic data for Oregon, see Perrspectives Oregon Resource Center.)