Portland is digging its way out of the deep hole into which the recession drove it several years ago. Considering the depths of the local downturn, Portland may as well have been annexed by California; in any event its housing, construction and other major economic components suffered losses of similar severity. Improvement has followed. In virtually equal annual proportions and numerical totals, meanwhile, non-farm employment over the past two years (August 2010 to August 2012) was up 4.0% (38,800 jobs), according to data provide by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The remaining deficit (employment yet to be regained) stood at 29,700 jobs per the end of the latest August as that month’s employment total remained down 2.9% from the total recorded for August 2008.
Leading the recovery is the local Professional and Business Services sector (which embraces a spectrum of subsector industries) with a gain of 6,500 jobs (5.0%) over the latest 24-month span. Here, however, growth slowed somewhat over the latest 12 months. However, growth in Manufacturing sector employment, significant in part for the large role played by local high-technology business, accelerated slightly during the latest August-to-August time span, growing by 4,000 jobs (3.6%). Perhaps no sector is more worthy of attention at present, though, than Construction, with employment that grew by fully 9.6% over the latest 12-month period. The net gain of 5,400 jobs thus amounted to nearly five times the gain seen over the preceding 12 months. The Health Care sector, which has been strong across the nation, may become stronger still in Portland. “The Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center [in Hillsboro] offers indications of healthcare job growth around the corner,” states Marcus & Millichap in a third quarter 2012 report.
Positive signs also have appeared in the previously ravaged local housing sector. Indeed, as in California, the heated appreciation of home values prior to the recession contributed to the downfall that occurred in Portland once the recession arrived. According to a September report in the Portland Business Journal, current trends in home prices and building permits point to “residential recovery.” According to the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Indices as cited by this source, home prices in metro Portland rose 3.2% in July. According to the National Association of Builders, as cited by the source, “builder confidence inched up three points in September. Portland area home builders secured permits for nearly 3,000 new homes to-date this year, a 42% increase over the same period in 2011… [N]ew household formation and growing consumer confidence is leading to more demand from first-time home buyers, which in turn sparks demand for higher end homes.”
Portland area foreclosures, meanwhile, are on the mend, noted the Journal in a July report citing RealtyTrac. As reported, Portland ranked 99th in the nation in rate of foreclosure for the first half of 2012 among approximately 200 metro areas. The 1 of every 151 mortgaged properties affected by foreclosure during the period represented a 27% year-over-year decline. The local multiple listing service put the June average metro area home price at $284,100, up 6.4% year-over-year.