But then again, I’m not an Oregon resident.
Oregon is a beautiful place, and, for many of the state’s well-heeled residents, including many refugees from equally beautiful but overpriced California, economic growth not only is unimportant but is even a negative. Rather than create opportunity, the real issue, according to Gov. John Kitzhaber, is making sure the state ranks high on “the happiness index.” Forget sweating the hard stuff, and cozy up with a hot soy latte.
There’s a problem with this. Oregon’s unemployment rate remains above the national average and underemployment – the measure of people working part-time or well below their skill level – stands at nearly 17 percent, behind only Nevada and California. Since 2007, the state has lost over 3.4 percent of its jobs, a performance much worse than the national average and even California.
“You have to wonder about the rhetoric of happiness,” suggests economist Bill Watkins, who predicts the state won’t be back to 2007 employment levels till next year. “You need jobs for people to be happy, you would think.”
This dearth of opportunity extends even into Portland, the state’s dominant city. One recent study showed that earnings for educated male in the city are among the worst in the country. Portland, the land of Ph.D.’s driving cabs and working in coffee shops, notes geographer Jim Russell, “attracts talent for the sake of attracting talent” but does little with them once they arrive. No surprise then that the place has become widely described the “slacker capital of the world.”
It won’t be long until this “progresses” north. Hopefully, I’ll be working by then so that I will actually BE happy instead of just being considered “happy”.