Oregon Economy
Oregon has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation. With important and growing industries in manufacturing, apparel, and green technologies, Oregon has a solid base in vital markets that will continue to enrich the economy moving forward.

Per capita GDP

Oregonís per capita GDP, adjusted for inflation, has been growing fairly consistentlyóand more quickly than both Washington and the U.S.-- over the past 15 years. If this trend continues, Oregon may even pass Washingtonís per capita GDP in the future.
GDP Growth

Real GDP growth in Oregon has been quite volatile, but, in all but the worst of the 2009 recession, GDP growth has remained positive. It has also generally exceeded Washington and the U.S.ís GDP growth rates. Ensuring a strong Oregon economy in the future is crucial to continuing this remarkable pattern of growth.
Household income

Oregonís median household income, adjusted for inflation, has remained relatively steady over the past 15 years and has only recently exceeded the USís real median household income. However, Oregon still trails Washington in this statistic.
Oregon Employment
Oregon's unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country; one of Oregonís biggest problems right now is that so many of its workers are out of work. However, overall unemployment has been slowly decreasing, and it is important to see where jobs are located in the economy and what industries have the highest potential for employment growth.

Unemployment

Oregonís unemployment rate has been consistently higher than both the U.S. and Washingtonís unemployment rates over the past decade. Helping businesses create new jobs is a crucial goal to decrease Oregonís unemployment.
Top 5 Industries for Oregon Employment

Oregon has many different industries driving its vibrant economy. Many Oregon jobs are within the healthcare and retail industries, but manufacturing, government, and food and lodging are also crucial for keeping Oregonians employed. Beyond these top-5 industries, many Oregonians are also employed in the production and distribution of durable goods as well as with financial-related occupations.
Oregon employment by business size

More than half of Oregonís workers are employed by companies with fewer than 100 employees, and over a quarter are employed by companies with fewer than 20 employees. As policymakers continue to adjust employment regulations, it is important to consider the many small businesses that employ the majority of Oregonians.
Oregon Exports
Exports have always been a crucial sector of the Oregon economy. Although recently major exports have shifted from logging and forestry to high tech manufacturing and related industries, exports still remain an important component of the Oregon economy and play an important role in both Oregonís GDP and its employment.

Export Employment

Oregonís employment is helped by its stronger-than-average export market. While Washington exports account for a larger percentage of jobs than in Oregonís exports do, Oregon still has a larger portion of jobs associated with exports than California and the US as a whole.
Oregon Exports by Sector

Oregonís export industry is particularly strong in computers and electronics manufacturing, and agriculture also plays an important role.
Key Sectors


Saving for Retirement – Is a State-Run Program a Feasible Option?

According to findings released last fall by the Oregon Retirement Savings Task Force, more than half of Oregonians had saved $25,000 or less for retirement.

While the amount of money needed to comfortably retire varies by person, common estimates suggest savings of at least eight times a retiree’s last annual income. $25,000 is far below that level, meaning that many Oregonians are left woefully unprepared for their future financial realities.

A number of Oregon legislators are pushing a bill they say would help people expand their retirement savings. HB 2960 would establish a state-run retirement savings program; employers would be mandated to automatically enroll any employee without an existing, employer provided plan, into the program, at a default contribution percentage through a paycheck deduction.

Employers would not be required to contribute separately to their employees’ state-run retirement savings accounts, but they would have to bear the administrative burden of enrolling and updating their employees. Assuming an employer’s own private plan met specifications outlined by the State of Oregon, it would not be required to auto-enroll its employees in the state plan. Through an additional process, employees could opt out of the program or change their default contribution amount.

While HB 2960 could increase retirement savings, it comes with a high price tag and concerns that people will continue to save too little for retirement.

The private sector already offers thousands of retirement savings plan options for workers to choose from, whether through their employer or individually. But, workers are not choosing to participate in these plans. A 2012 survey by the Oregon Employment Department found that only 61% of eligible employees were enrolled in their companies’ retirement benefit plans.

Even the incentive of contribution matching was not enough to sway many employees into participating; even though 63% of employers with retirement plans offered to match employee contributions on some level, many employees still did not participate.

Additionally, the administrative fees for a state-run program are very high: a 2009 State Department study in Washington estimated that startup costs for their proposed state-run retirement plan would be almost $2 million, with an additional $1.4 million in costs each year. With Oregon’s huge unfunded liabilities in PERS, spending more money on a public retirement program is very hard to justify.

While California passed a bill similar to Oregon’s HB 2960 in 2012 when it established its own state-run retirement savings program, called “Secure Choice,” there is no data to show if the program is a success. That’s because the program has yet to be fully implemented – a task force is still designing the program and figuring out how it may work. However carefully Oregon’s Legislature designs HB 2960, there are serious concerns about its effectiveness and cost because there are no proven models in other states.

And, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Tibble v. Edison International this week raises even more concerns about HB 2960; the Court ruled unanimously that employees have the right to sue if they are offered imprudent retirement savings options. That places new liabilities on both employers – who would be required to sign all their employees up for the plan and would thus be considered fiduciaries – and the State of Oregon in the event that the plan did not represent the best interests of the enrollees. That’s a huge risk for both businesses and government.

Oregon cannot afford to spend its tax dollars administering, managing, and overseeing a state program that would replicate the retirement savings options that the private market is already providing. Further, the legal burden of liability if the plan fails is steep. As the Oregon Legislature looks further at HB 2960, establishing a state-run plan may not be the most cost-effective and feasible option to expand Oregonians’ savings for retirement.