For most of the past four decades, Oregon's economic growth has been centered in the Portland metro area, fueling an acrimonious urban-rural divide.

2020 did little to heal the cultural rift between urban and rural Oregonians. But it did bring the two parts of the state closer together in another way: similar economic pain.

As Josh Lehner, a state economist, observed this month, Portland typically leads the state out of recessions. But Lehner has noticed something unusual in the bounce back from the initial COVID-19 shutdown: Rural Oregon is faring better than are Oregon cities. And so far, in employment terms, it's faring far better than Portland.

"Preliminary employment estimates indicate that the urban-rural divide has actually shrunk so far in 2020," Lehner blogged earlier this month. "Now it's shrunk for bad reasons—urban areas have lost proportionately more jobs—and not for good reasons—rural areas growing faster over an entire expansion—but even so, it's important to note the gap is not widening."