Downtown Portland Slow to Rebuild From 2008 Job Losses

Portland Business Alliance Press Release

Government continues trend as top employer

Downtown Portland experienced an increase of 54 businesses and 393 jobs in 2009, but there is still a long road ahead to make up for 2008 when roughly 277 businesses and 3,000 jobs were lost. The greatest employment gains were seen in government, information and healthcare. Additionally, results from the annual Downtown Business Census & Survey show that for the ninth year in a row, a large majority of downtown business owners feel that downtown is clean and safe.

“In 2001, downtown Portland’s employment peaked at nearly 87,000 workers and we haven’t ever made it back to that same level,” said Michelle Martin, Senior Property Manager at Ashforth Pacific, and chair of the Downtown Clean & Safe District. “These results show that the business community and policymakers need to stay focused on support for business and job creation in order to ensure our downtown remains vibrant and healthy.”

The Downtown Clean & Safe District, funded by downtown property owners in the 213-block district, conducts the Business Census & Survey each year in coordination with the Portland Business Alliance. The census measures all employers (referred to as enterprises in the report) and all employees physically located within the I-405/I-5 loop using mailed questionnaires, personal follow-up and block-by-block canvassing to obtain a 100 percent response rate.

The 2009 Downtown Business Census reveals that 3,973 businesses, organizations and governmental entities were located within the I-5/I-405 loop as of October 1, 2009, the annual baseline for the analysis. According to the census, total employee count in downtown is 83,387.

The top five downtown employers in 2009

  • State of Oregon (includes Oregon University System/Portland State University)
  • City of Portland
  • U.S. Federal Government
  • The Standard
  • Regence Group (BlueCross BlueShield)

A report trend that is holding steady is the respondents’ attitudes about the safety and cleanliness of downtown, which remains positive. The responses show that 97 percent of downtown workers feel that downtown is safe while 79 percent feel it is clean. Downtown workers do feel, however, that the number of panhandlers and public inebriates exerts a significant detrimental impact on downtown, citing it as the top factor that needs improvement. In earlier surveys, construction was the most pressing concern.

In terms of how employees are getting to work downtown, the census shows that last year’s decrease in those commuters driving alone continues to decrease, from 42 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2009, and that the number of people taking MAX or the bus held steady at 44 percent.

For more information and to view the entire Downtown Business Census & Survey results, visit

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