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Report: After years of steady growth, Portland at an urgent 'economic crossroads'

The Portland Business Alliance released its 2022 State of the Economy report this week.

PORTLAND, Ore. — After years of steady growth and booming tourism, Portland’s economy is at a "crossroads" and local leaders need to act with urgency, say the authors of a new study.

"We've assumed positive population growth, we've assumed jobs recoveries from previous recessions. We've also assumed a good quality of life and a reasonably affordable place to live. Those assumptions are no longer valid," said Andrew Hoan, CEO of the Portland Business Alliance who released its 2022 State of the Economy report Wednesday. "And so what the future holds depends on what our leaders in office and policy holders do with this information and how they act on it."

Among other key takeaways, the report, released in partnership with ECONorthwest and Bank of America, shows Portland's unemployment rate lingers at 3.4% in the Portland metro, with jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector still taking the largest hit. There are 13.5% fewer of those jobs in Portland right now than there were before the pandemic. While that’s a rebound from the worst losses in early 2020, when that same number plummeted to 50.7% fewer jobs, Portland's recovery is slower than it could be, Hoan said.

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"If you take all industries, we still have not fully recovered all the jobs that were lost, versus places like Austin and Salt Lake City, who we compare ourselves with," he said. "They've actually gained jobs and are ahead of where they were pre-pandemic. So it shows you, we don't have to be like this; other places have recovered and we can aspire to be that way."

Hoan also noted Vancouver and Clark County have seen their populations grow.

In short, Hoan said, small business owners and families are feeling the squeeze like never before.

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"One element of this report people should really pay attention to is what does it take to live in this region now? What is the income it takes? And for a family with two parents and two kids, $93,000-plus is what it takes to sustain life here. That is a very high income," he said. "We aren't Detroit, post automaker departures, and we're not New York City in the '70s and '80s … but we do have to act differently if we are to change the paradigm and start to think about embracing new policies that welcome and compete for households and for business."

The PBA presented the report to local stakeholders Wednesday.

City Commissioner Mingus Mapps told KGW via email "I strongly believe that local and regional leaders need to act with urgency to save Portland’s economy ... The foundation of recovery is increasing the number of public safety officers as quickly as possible, investing in transitional shelter beds with behavioral health resources, and continuing to increase trash pick-up resources.”

Cody Bowman, communications specialist for Mayor Ted Wheeler, also released as statement.

"Portland and other cities across the U.S. are still navigating the COVID-19 pandemic—it’s not over," he said via email. "As we continue steering through an uncertain economy exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Ted Wheeler will continue to act with urgency to address the multiple crises facing the City of Portland. We look forward to bringing new economic initiatives and asks to the table in upcoming ARPA and budget talks."

You can find a full report here: https://portlandalliance.com/2022

FULL REPORT: 2022 State of the Economy

FULL REPORT: 2022 Cost of Living Report

VIDEO: Portland's rising cost of living

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