- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Portland metropolitan region has regained the jobs lost during the recession, but household incomes remain below pre-recession levels, according to a report released Wednesday.

The region stretching from southwest Washington state to the wine country southwest of Portland added nearly 85,000 jobs between the end of 2010 and August 2014. That’s 20,000 more jobs than were lost during the recession. Despite the uptick in jobs, median household income was $4,400 below pre-recession levels, and per-capita income was 4.6 percent less than the average for metro areas - $45,850 nationally and $43,734 in Portland.

“Portland and the rest of the nation are five years into a recovery that is probably going to take seven or eight years to complete,” said John Tapogna, president of ECONorthwest, the economic-consulting firm that conducted the study.

“We’re still at the point of the recovery where there is enough slack in the labor market that it is an employers’ market, so they have been able to dictate the wages.”

A review of income distribution shows Portland’s lower- and middle-income earners, on average, make more than workers elsewhere. However, the region’s higher-income earners make less, reaffirming a previous ECONorthwest report that tied the city’s relatively low incomes to the types of college graduates it attracts.

Portland has more humanities majors than comparable cities, and fewer high-earning business majors.

A highlight in the report is that Portland ranks third in the nation for metro areas in terms of gross metropolitan product, the market value of all goods and services produced. Much of that is due to the electronics and semiconductor industry, particularly Intel.

“Oregon is one of the fastest-growing economies in the country,” Tapogna said. “And, frankly for those of us living here, sometimes you scratch your head and say: ‘Wow, I don’t quite feel that.’”

An area of concern is whether Portland’s job growth can keep pace with population growth. Tapogna notes that baby boomers are leaving the workforce, adding pressure on public finances in a place that does not have a sales tax. At the other end of the age spectrum, Portland attracts young people who may not be paying much income tax when they arrive.

“It does appear that, relative to other places, people are willing to move here without firm prospects in hand and that creates some frictional unemployment as they try to settle in,” Tapogna said.

ECONorthwest compiled the report for the Value of Jobs coalition, which includes the Portland Business Alliance, the Port of Portland and other business interests.

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Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub

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