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Wages Increasing But Still Not Keeping Up With Inflation

From 2012 through 2022 the average wage – including full and part-time jobs – increased 40% in Benton County, 45% in Clatsop County, 51% in Lincoln County, 52% in Columbia County, and 53% in Tillamook County. That seems great, until we remember that inflation increased also during that time. After adjusting for inflation, real wages rose 10% in Benton County, 14% in Clatsop County, 18% in Lincoln County, 20% in Columbia County, and 20% in Tillamook County over the 10 years. Unfortunately, only Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties in Northwest Oregon kept up with the state as a whole, for which inflation-adjusted wages increased 18%.

Some of the growth in recent years probably resulted from the booming economy and tight labor market that occurred before and after the pandemic recession. There have also been legislated increases in the state’s minimum wage. But unfortunately some of the very recent increase in average wages may due to the slower recovery of lower-wage jobs shed during the pandemic recession. The growth in inflation-adjusted wages also may be due to changes in output per worker, which has probably increased considerably over the time period. There is no data for productivity in these counties, but nationally the output per hour for nonfarm businesses workers increased 13% from 2012 through 2022. The tight labor market after the pandemic recession spurred further wage hikes, although recent increases in inflation will work to reduce any real increase for workers.

Average wages in all five counties are less than the statewide average wage and all the counties lost ground in comparison with the state from 2012 to 2022. Clatsop County fell further behind the state by $4,200 over the 10 years, and in 2022 had an average wage that was $18,714 below the state average. Tillamook County fell behind the statewide average by an additional $1,789 over the 10 years, and had a 2022 average wage that was$16,992 below the statewide average. Few counties have average wages that exceed the statewide average.The result is a reverse Lake Wobegon effect; 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties are below average when measuring wages.

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