Oregon Economy
Oregon has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation. With important and growing industries in manufacturing, apparel, and green technologies, Oregon has a solid base in vital markets that will continue to enrich the economy moving forward.

Per capita GDP

Oregonís per capita GDP, adjusted for inflation, has been growing fairly consistentlyóand more quickly than both Washington and the U.S.-- over the past 15 years. If this trend continues, Oregon may even pass Washingtonís per capita GDP in the future.
GDP Growth

Real GDP growth in Oregon has been quite volatile, but, in all but the worst of the 2009 recession, GDP growth has remained positive. It has also generally exceeded Washington and the U.S.ís GDP growth rates. Ensuring a strong Oregon economy in the future is crucial to continuing this remarkable pattern of growth.
Household income

Oregonís median household income, adjusted for inflation, has remained relatively steady over the past 15 years and has only recently exceeded the USís real median household income. However, Oregon still trails Washington in this statistic.
Oregon Employment
Oregon's unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country; one of Oregonís biggest problems right now is that so many of its workers are out of work. However, overall unemployment has been slowly decreasing, and it is important to see where jobs are located in the economy and what industries have the highest potential for employment growth.

Unemployment

Oregonís unemployment rate has been consistently higher than both the U.S. and Washingtonís unemployment rates over the past decade. Helping businesses create new jobs is a crucial goal to decrease Oregonís unemployment.
Top 5 Industries for Oregon Employment

Oregon has many different industries driving its vibrant economy. Many Oregon jobs are within the healthcare and retail industries, but manufacturing, government, and food and lodging are also crucial for keeping Oregonians employed. Beyond these top-5 industries, many Oregonians are also employed in the production and distribution of durable goods as well as with financial-related occupations.
Oregon employment by business size

More than half of Oregonís workers are employed by companies with fewer than 100 employees, and over a quarter are employed by companies with fewer than 20 employees. As policymakers continue to adjust employment regulations, it is important to consider the many small businesses that employ the majority of Oregonians.
Oregon Exports
Exports have always been a crucial sector of the Oregon economy. Although recently major exports have shifted from logging and forestry to high tech manufacturing and related industries, exports still remain an important component of the Oregon economy and play an important role in both Oregonís GDP and its employment.

Export Employment

Oregonís employment is helped by its stronger-than-average export market. While Washington exports account for a larger percentage of jobs than in Oregonís exports do, Oregon still has a larger portion of jobs associated with exports than California and the US as a whole.
Oregon Exports by Sector

Oregonís export industry is particularly strong in computers and electronics manufacturing, and agriculture also plays an important role.
Key Sectors


Oregon’s Public Universities:  Are They Succeeding?

More than 102,000 people enrolled in Oregon’s public universities for the fall term of 2014.  That’s an increase of more than 47% since 2000, when 69,500 people enrolled.  Yet, last year’s graduating class only awarded 21,000 diplomas.  Six-year graduation rates at Oregon’s public universities show that about one in two African American or Hispanic/Latino students finished their degrees.  For Caucasian students, the results were only a little better – three in five students received their degrees within six years of starting a post-secondary public college or university.

That’s not good enough.

Oregon’s lofty 40-40-20 goal of having 40% of Oregonians with a bachelor’s degree (or higher), 40% with an associate’s or technical degree, and 20% with a high school diploma by 2025 is ambitious.  And, research shows that at current graduation rates, it’s almost impossible to achieve.

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) found that 57% of Oregon’s high school class of 2006 attended some college, yet only 22% of that class had finished their degree by 2013.  That rate is about half the 4-year college rate aimed for in the 40-40-20 goal and represents Oregon’s state-wide struggle with post-secondary education.

Many rural communities struggled even more in sending their high school graduates to public universities; for example, in Malheur County (in southeast Oregon), only 10.6% of high school graduates enrolled at an Oregon public university within the year after graduation.  And, across the state, rural counties sent an average of only 16.0% of their high school graduates to public universities in Oregon.

From enrolling students to engaging them, to graduating them, Oregon lags behind in its goals for a variety of success metrics.

Back in 2011, when former Governor John Kitzhaber had just been reelected after an almost decade-long hiatus, education system reform became a top priority.  It was then that the 40-40-20 goal was adopted, in the same year Governor Kitzhaber unveiled the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB).  Tasked with finding, identifying, and initiating solutions to improve Oregon’s school system and achieve better student scholastic outcomes, the OEIB included citizens, a representative from the teachers union, a business leader, and even Governor Kitzhaber himself.

Unfortunately, OEIB never lived up to expectations.  Last week, lawmakers in the Oregon Legislature decided to disband OEIB.  Its four-year tenure was tumultuous; it faced both personnel issues and opposition from school boards, who felt that the Board’s goal attainment reporting procedures were cumbersome and duplicative.

Regardless of the OEIB’s disbandment, other education agencies are still working to improve Oregon’s school system.  HECC’s budget proposal before the Oregon Legislature’s Ways & Means Subcommittee on Education outlined a few potential improvements to higher education funding; instead of using state funding on a per-student enrollment basis, HECC suggests shifting toward a funding mechanism that rewards quantifiable outcomes like first-year retention rates, six-year graduation rates, number of degrees awarded, and other areas beyond simply the number of people attending.

HECC hopes that this new type of mechanism will help stretch state and local funding for higher education and decrease the need for frequent tuition increases.  Clearly, fixing Oregon’s widespread post-secondary education problems are about more than just money.  But improving enrollment, retention, and graduation at Oregon’s public universities are good first steps in achieving – or at least moving closer to – the state’s difficult but important 40-40-20 education goal.