Portland area among hardest hit by recession

PORTLAND — A new study shows the recession hit the Portland metro area harder than many other big cities around the world.

The study by the Brookings Institution and the London School of Economics based its rankings on annualized employment and income growth in three different time periods: the pre-recession years of 1993-2007, the recession years of 2007-2009 and the recovery period, 2009-2010.

Portland plummeted from a pre-recession rank of 45th to 139th during the worst of the recession, one of the steepest declines among the 150 metro areas included in the international survey, The Oregonian reported.

The study said Portland was among the "housing-bubble metros" — or cities more vulnerable to the residential real estate market crash. Las Vegas suffered the steepest decline among the 150 cities, falling from 14th in the pre-recession years to 146th in 2009-2010.

In the pre-recession years of 1993-2007, the study pegged Portland's average yearly employment growth at 1.6 percent and income growth at 4.1 percent, putting it 45th among the 150 cities in the study, between Istanbul and Bogota.

Then came the recession, driving down Portland's employment to negative 5.1 percent per year and income to negative 7.8 percent annually. In 2009-2010, Portland's employment grew just 0.3 percent and income fell another 0.6 percent.

Manufacturing hubs such as Detroit and Cleveland have bounced back faster than Portland and other housing-bubble cities, according to the study.

It has become apparent only recently how dangerously exposed Portland was to housing, said Tim Duy, University of Oregon economics professor and director of the Oregon Economic Forum.

"You look at late 1980s and early 1990s, manufacturing was really important, particularly high-tech manufacturing," Duy said. "But in this last decade, it was all about housing."

The study noted that four Chinese cities ranked in the top 10, while cities in India and Australia passed through the recession relatively unscathed, as did Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Peru and several other South American cities.

"These other cities, they're not as wealthy, they're not as productive as the U.S. economy," said Alan Berube, a Brookings senior fellow and author of the study.

"But if this keeps up, they're going to eat our lunch," Berube said. "We have to get a little bit smarter about how to build our economy."

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