Every county in Northwest Oregon was hit hard by the Pandemic Recession.
Business restrictions and closures affected all counties; the travel industry, so important to the coast, saw an unprecedented drop in business and employment; and Oregon State University in Benton County ended in-person instruction. It’s not surprising then that in 2020 gross domestic product fell in all five counties from the previous year.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of goods and services produced in an area and is a key economic indicator.
Columbia County had more modest GDP growth over the past 10 years. Columbia County’s GDP fell in the years after the Great Recession before rebounding more in 2015. It has grown by 5.9% in real terms since 2010, a gain of $344 million. The growth was due entirely to the private sector, which grew by nearly 12%. Government GDP fell by 21% in Columbia County. Services, especially professional and business services and health care, powered its GDP growth. Construction also grew rapidly over the 10 years. Manufacturing GDP declined from 2010 to 2020.
Clatsop County’s employment also had solid GDP growth during the recovery from the Great Recession, and it was also hit very hard by the Pandemic Recession. Clatsop County’s GDP grew by $437 million from 2010 to 2020 which yielded total inflation-adjusted growth of 4.7% over the period. The county’s growth came primarily from its private-sector service industries. Clatsop County’s retail and wholesale trade, health care, and professional and business services industries provided much of the county’s GDP growth.
Tillamook County has the smallest GDP in the region, but it led the pack for GDP growth (26%) from 2010 to 2020. Tillamook County did not escape the Pandemic Recession, however. Its GDP shrank by 5.1% from 2019 to 2020. Most of Tillamook County’s GDP growth from 2010 to 2020 came from private industry. Output from both manufacturing and professional and business services more than doubled over the period. Retail trade output increased by one-third. Although the county has the smallest GDP in the Northwest region, its growth led to it producing a gain in nominal output (+$427 million) that was larger than in either Lincoln or Columbia counties and nearly equal to the increase in Clatsop County. Pretty impressive.
During the Great Recession Lincoln County’s GDP fell six out of seven years from 2006 through 2013. In inflation-adjusted terms it took until 2016 for the county’s GDP to surpass the level it first reached in 2006. The Pandemic Recession then hit Lincoln County very hard; for two months the county had an unemployment rate in excess of 20% as its travel industry collapsed. The county’s inflation-adjusted GDP was actually 5.2% lower in 2020 than it had been in 2010 during the Great Recession even though nominal GDP increased by $302 million. Real private-sector GDP fell by 7.7% over the 10 years.
Some Lincoln County industries did grow. Retail trade grew by 28% in real terms and professional and business services grew by 12%. Construction, finance, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing had the real value of their output fall compared with 2010.
Estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) show that Benton County’s GDP grew by nearly $1 billion dollars from 2010 through 2020. After adjusting for inflation this resulted in real growth of 8.7%. Benton County’s employment was on a strong growth path for years until the pandemic. Oregon State University’s effective closure led to the loss of thousands of jobs, and GDP fell by 2.4% in 2020. The county still hasn’t fully recovered.
Benton County provided 42.5% of the region’s $11.2 billion GDP in 2020. Benton County’s large public-sector employment provided a measure of stability during the pandemic and real government GDP grew by 12.4% over the 10 years to 2020. Private-sector GDP grew by 7.7%. Top private-sector industries contributing to growth included professional and business services, retail trade, and health care.
The BEA makes estimates of county-level gross domestic product.
Erik Knoder is a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. He may be reached at 541-351-5595.