By Josh Lehner
Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Blog
The fact that Oregon has below average income, by any conventional measure, has been well documented. See the Employment Department’s report or the library of work from ECONorthwest on the subject. Below, I simply update the standard per capita income figures and also highlight average wages. The reason being is that the two show some differing trends. Of course one thing they share in common is that Oregon is below the U.S. average.
While Oregon PCPI has rebounded in the last couple of years, it is still just back to the share of the U.S. average seen prior to the Great Recession (about 90-91%.) So there has been some improvement, and it’s good to know it does not go down forever. However, Oregon’s average wage per worker, relative to the nation, has certainly not experienced the slow erosion that overall PCPI has. The massive early 1980s recession in Oregon was a large, negative economic shock to the regional economy. It set Oregon back significantly, especially relative to other states. Even the strong boom of the 1990s was not able to fully erase the relative losses from the early 1980s. However, Oregon’s average wage today, at 92% of the U.S. average, is at its highest relative position since the early 1980s. This largely has to do with our stronger wage gains in the past couple of years. Our office’s outlook calls for this to continue for another couple of years before slowing.I think this distinction is important to keep in mind. For many households, labor income (wages) is the largest part of their income, if not the entire part. Additionally, there are a lot of factors that influence the overall PCPI measure: population growth, the type of population growth, demographics, the share of prime working age adults, the share of such adults with a job, etc. The general point being, that while Oregon’s average wage is below the U.S. average, it is not the driver of the slow erosion in the PCPI measure. That falls on some combination of non-wage income and then demographics, population growth and the share of adults with a job, or income-earning source.
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