Portland Area’s Economy Looked Far Better in 2021 Than You Might Think, New Data Shows

Portland beat Miami, where the mayor is courting crypto bros.

open Window washer in Parkrose. (Brian Burk)

As Portlanders wrung their hands about the condition of city streets, something odd happened last year: The metro-area economy boomed.

The combined Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area saw job growth of 6.2% during 2021. That’s the 10th-fastest recovery among the 50 largest U.S. metro regions, state economist Christian Kaylor tweeted last week, citing new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Portland came in just shy of Dallas-Fort Worth’s 6.5% job growth. It beat out Miami, where the mayor is working overtime to woo crypto bros and investment bankers, at 6%. Las Vegas topped the list at 13.7%, followed by Orlando and San Diego, both at 9.1%. Those cities are all tourism centers, Kaylor noted.

Job openings told a similarly rosy story, at least for workers. In Multnomah and Washington counties, employers were looking to fill 28,000 jobs at any given time last year, an all-time high, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

“The record level of vacancies came as employers attempted to replace jobs lost during the pandemic recession while competing for a limited number of available workers,” Amy Vander Vliet, a state economist focused on the metro area, said in a post last week.

Health care and social assistance had the greatest number of jobs open throughout the year at 5,708, despite paying an average wage of $23.99 an hour. Retail had 3,390 openings at an average wage of $16.16. Leisure and hospitality came in third at 2,994 vacancies, paying an average wage of $16.91.

“Professional, scientific, and technical services” had 2,866 vacancies at any given time, despite paying an average of $34.67, the Employment Department said.

Together, the top four categories accounted for over half of the region’s job openings, the state said.

By occupation, not industry, retail salespeople were in highest demand, the Oregon Employment Department said. At any one time, stores were looking for 2,087 sales staffers.

Two occupations cracked the top 10 list for the first time in at least a decade, the department said: dental assistants and hotel-motel-resort desk clerks. And half of all job vacancies in Multnomah and Clackamas counties had either no educational requirement or required just a high school diploma.

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