By editorial board • 

Rave economic reviews don’t extend past PDX

State and federal stats paint a glowing picture of Oregon’s economy. In colorful prose, accompanied by flashy maps and graphics, analysts tell us it’s red hot and rolling.

But the Oregon story is a tale of two economies, one urban and the other rural, one Portland Metro and the other downstate. And we fall on the wrong side on both counts.

The economic base wasn’t proportional to begin with, and the gains are rendering it less so. So residents aren’t reaping proportional benefits down our way.

What’s more, as a result of profligate spending, weak oversight, powerful unions, an obscenely generous pension system and a creaky, two-legged tax structure, we aren’t reaping proportional benefits at the Capitol in Salem either. In fact, in the face of a robust resurgence, we stand to open the new year with a $1.7 billion shortfall.

The good news seems to just keep gushing forth on one front, leading analysts at Bloomberg to declare Oregon “the picture of economic health.”

While Wyoming, West Virginia and North Dakota are shedding jobs in torrents, particularly in energy, Oregon has been leading the nation in nurturing new employment, specifically in athletic wear, software and electronics.

Oregon added 30,700 jobs in the first six months of 2016, edging Nevada for top honors at 1.7 percent.

During fiscal 2015-16, Oregon exceeded Utah and Delaware in national job growth at 3.2 percent, while North Dakota was shedding 3.3 percent of its workforce.

Oregon’s gross domestic product has been rising 2.5 percent the last three years and 3.4 percent last year, good for No. 8 nationally. It has been rising at a 1.6 percent rate since 2007, sufficient for No. 6.

Oregon’s median household income rose to $54,100 in 2015, a 5.9 increase ranking No. 3. Average hourly earnings rose 4.7 percent, dwarfing a national average of just 1.8.

Yet, our state can’t manage to make ends meet. Invariably, its not so grand income falls woefully short of its gloriously lofty ambitions, and the effects hit harder the farther you get from Portland.

Locally, another set of figures gives us further pause, starting with this one: Less than half of Mac High grads are continuing to college, compared to 59 for the state and 68 percent for the nation.

Only 23.1 percent of Mac parents hold degrees, compared to 26.5 for Newberg, 30.1 for Oregon, 43.4 for Beaverton and 65.2 percent for Lake Oswego. As a result, median household income runs $44,451 for McMinnville, compared to $50,521 for Oregon, $54,856 for Newberg, $57,068 for Beaverton and $84,244 for Lake Oswego.

That’s something we can’t afford to perpetuate.

Locally, our prescription is two-fold. We would have our schools send more kids to college and see the rest enter the workforce with higher-value skills. We would have city and county agencies put more focus on recruitment and retention of family-wage employers.

We can’t fix Oregon, but with enough will, we can fix our little corner of it.
 

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