U.S. economic report shows Medford area's GDP in lower third nationwide

The economy has been bad all over, but it's been worse in Southern Oregon than most places, according to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report released Wednesday.

The Medford Metropolitan Statistical Area, which takes in all of Jackson County, was in the bottom third nationally during 2009, when the local gross domestic product plunged for the second year in a row.

Jackson County's inflation-adjusted gross domestic product for 2007 was $6.12 billion. The county's GDP dropped by 4.7 percent to $5.834 billion in 2008, then it got even worse, dropping 5.2 percent to $5.53 billion during 2009.

During that same period, Jackson County's unemployment rate more than doubled — from 5.9 percent to 11.9 percent.

The largest contributor to the fall-off was lack of construction, said Ralph Rodriguez, an economist with the BEA in Washington, D.C. "The second largest subtractor from growth was durable goods, such as boat building."

Construction inactivity subtracted 1.65 percent form the local GDP, the report said.

During 2009, 292 of the nation's 366 metro areas — 80 percent — saw economic decline. But only 77 areas had it worse than Medford.

In the Far West region that takes in Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada, 35 of the 48 metro areas slipped. Only 10 saw a worse drop than Medford.

Nationally, real GDP fell 2.4 percent in 2009 after declining .4 percent in 2008.

The continued decline in construction over the past few years hurt the Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Southeast and Far West regions the most.

"While the construction industry shut down, some of our other products did well through the recession," said Alec Miller, an economist with REMI Northwest in Medford. "Helicopters did well. Construction tends to be a more volatile industry. When the region gets going again, it will come back faster than some of the manufacturing regions. We're starting to see it come back with a few new houses going up around the valley, but we're probably not seeing the spec houses we saw a few years ago."

In contrast to most industries, the bureau reported, natural resources and mining showed strong growth in 2009. Growth in mining resulted from sharp declines in prices for petroleum, natural gas and other mining products. Growth accelerated in 70 metropolitan areas, most notably in areas where natural resources and mining industries are concentrated, such as Casper, Wyo., and Oklahoma City, Okla.

Casper's 22.4 percent real GDP growth was the most of any metropolitan area in 2009, due largely to growth in the mining sector.

"There is still logging going on, and we still have some mills," Miller said. "But obviously they are heavily connected to construction."

Rodriguez said the latest statistics provided little in the way of future trends, or even 2010 performance.

"We're pretty much looking backward into the rearview mirror," Rodriguez said. "We'll know more in September (when the preliminary 2010 numbers are released)."

Share This Story