Oregon economist reports rural job growth is “picking up,” but unemployment remains high. The pattern is familiar here.

Rural communities continue to struggle, nationally and in our state. As we’ve reported, building rural economies was the focus of a recent Association of Washington Business Rural Jobs Summit.

So we were struck by this headline from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis: Rural Job Growth Picking Up. The brief analysis points out that the state is slowing down, but unevenly.

We are adding jobs, seeing income gains and the like. However the pace of growth is slower today than a year or two ago. In fact, job growth has decelerated by a full percentage point over the past two years. This slowing is largely, if not entirely for good reasons. An economy digging out of a recession behaves differently than one approaching full employment…

Today, what we’re seeing is Oregon and most of its large, urban areas slow as they approach full employment. Rural Oregon overall is not slowing to the same extent. Rural Oregon is also further from full employment, but is making progress. In fact, since the spring of 2015, rural Oregon has added jobs at a pretty steady 2 percent annual pace. These gains in rural Oregon outpace what the nation and the typical state have seen over this time period.

This Oregon OEA map shows the pattern.

While the Oregon map looks at year to year job growth and shows some rural success, the narrative of rural communities “further from full employment” will be familiar to Washingtonians. The most recent county unemployment map published by the Washington Economic Security Department highlights the disparities in our state.

While many counties are showing some improvement, the urban-rural differences remain an ongoing public policy issue. It’s central to our goal of “expanding Washington’s culture of opportunity to individuals, families, employers, and communities in every corner of the state.”

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