Oregon Business Conditions Survey

The Oregon Economic Forum is launching a new project as part of our comprehensive effort to assess the state’s economy.  And we need your help!

We are asking that you participate in a survey designed to track business conditions in Oregon.  This short survey ask questions about business conditions at your firm, in your industry, and in your geographic area.  Quotes from certain open-ended questions may be featured in quarterly publications detailing the results of the survey.

We are looking to build a contact list of firms willing to participate with a goal of launching the first survey by the second quarter of 2015.  If you are interested in participating, please contact me at duy@uoregon.edu.

A sample of the survey is available here – at the end you will have another opportunity to participate.

Thank you for your support of the Oregon Economic Forum and the University of Oregon.

October 2014 Statewide Measures of Economic Activity

The October 2014 State of Oregon Economic Indicators is now available here.  Special thanks to KeyBank for their generous support of this project.

Oregon’s economy showed further improvement in October.  Highlights of the report include:

  • The Oregon Measure of Economic Activity rose sharply in October on the back of positive contributions from all sectors. The three-month moving average, which smooths month-to-month volatility in the measure, rose in tandem with the monthly number to 0.37.
  • Employment data was stronger almost across the board, with only the natural resources and mining sector making a negative contribution to the index. The manufacturing employment contribution was particularly strong, suggesting that Oregon is seeing growth in the sector consistent with what national indicators suggest.
  • The household sector was bolster by solid contributions from initial unemployment claims, employment services hiring, and labor force gains. These factors suggest that the Oregon labor market will continue to add jobs at a solid pace in the months ahead.
  • The University of Oregon Index of Economic Indicators gained 0.2% in October. The level of initial unemployment claims fell while employment services payrolls (mostly temporary help firms) gained sharply. This indicates that not only are firms laying off workers at a very low rate, but hiring activity may be accelerating further.
  • The two indicators suggest continued growth in Oregon at an above average pace of activity. Further gains are likely as the national economy will continue its general upward trajectory for the foreseeable future. Note that it is not uncommon for the UO Index to track sideways during a mature expansion.

Yes, I am Optimistic

I stood relieved when Federal Reserve policymakers recognized the tendency toward pessimism during this recovery when no such pessimism was warranted:

Finally, a couple of members suggested including language in the statement indicating that recent foreign economic developments had increased uncertainty or had boosted downside risks to the U.S. economic outlook, but participants generally judged that such wording would suggest greater pessimism about the economic outlook than they thought appropriate.

This stands in contrast to fairly consistent efforts to find the dark cloud in every silver lining. This, from the Wall Street Journal:

Economic prospects are flagging across Europe, Japan and big emerging markets such as India, a turn that presents fresh challenges to the relatively robust U.S. economy at a time when the world needs a dependable growth engine.

At least they mentioned the “robust” part. And the perennial activity of agonizing over holiday sales is in full swing, despite the reality that holiday sales tell you little if anything about the overall economy.

The lesson no one wants to draw from this recovery is that the US economy is both stronger and more resilient than commonly believed. Everyone, it would seem, is in the pessimism business – and such pessimism seems endemic throughout the US public. Perhaps only pessimism scores political points. Or perhaps that is only human nature. As Deirdre McCloskey recently remarked in her review of Piketty:

…pessimism sells. For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell, and become huffy and scornful when some idiotic optimist intrudes on their pleasure. Yet pessimism has consistently been a poor guide to the modern economic world. We are gigantically richer in body and spirit than we were two centuries ago…

Overall, I find the pessimism (from the right and the left) inconsistent with the fact that despite the ups and downs of the quarterly data, throughout the recovery, GDP has grown at a fairly consistent rate…

Please visit Tim Duy’s Fed Watch for more!

Third Quarter 2014 Central Oregon Business Index

The Central Oregon Business Index rose in the third quarter of 2014 at pace slower than that of the previous quarter. The Central Oregon Business Index stood at 125.2 (1998=100) during the third quarter of 2014 compared to a revised 124.3 the previous quarter. Compared to the same quarter last year, the COBI is up 4.3 percent. The index signals ongoing growth in the regional economy.  The full report is available here.

Special thanks to the Bend Bulletin – story here.

September 2014 Oregon Regional Economic Indexes

The September 2014 Oregon Regional Economic Indexes of  was released today.  Full report is available here.  We thank KeyBank for their generous support of this project.


September numbers for regional measures of activity revealed some monthly volatility, but underlying trends are holding generally steady.  Highlights of the report include:

  • Moving average measures of activity – which smooth monthly volatility – indicate that the Portland Metro, Eugene-Springfield, and Central Oregon regions are growing near or above their average paces of activity, while the Rogue Valley and Salem areas are at somewhat below normal growth.
  • Weakness in the employment components and an unusual jump in initial unemployment claims weighed on the Portland measure, pulling it into negative territory for the month. Such drops, however, are not uncommon; the underlying trend is still above average for the region.
  • Generally solid employment data supported the Eugene-Springfield measure, offsetting a negative contribution from housing permits. A particularly weak housing permits number dragged down the Salem measure. While housing sales were neutral or better across the state, this component provided a particularly solid boost to the Central Oregon measure.
  • Softer labor force growth weighted on many measures, particularly the Rogue Valley. While somewhat disappointing after recent strong labor force contributions to the Rogue Valley measure, note that falling unemployment rates in the region resulted in a nearly neutral contribution from that indicator.
  • I anticipate the next report will be generally stronger given the large 9,900 job gain reported statewide for October.

Reminder:  The regional measures are prone to potentially large swings due to the volatility of some of the underlying data, particularly measures of employment.  The moving average measures smooth out much of that volatility.

Kind Words From Brad DeLong

Via Equitable Growth:

As all of you know by now, I am a big fan of Tim Duy of the University of Oregon and his Fed Watch. Here is a sample–ten very useful and informative takes from the past half-year or so:

Always judicious, always giving a fair shake to all the currents of thought in the Federal Reserve, to the data, and to the live and serious models of how the economy works.

Read Tim Duy, and you have a sophisticated, broad, and truly balanced understanding of what the Federal Reserve is thinking, what it is doing, why it is doing it, and what the likely outcomes of its actions are. That is a package that is very hard to find anyplace else.

It still surprises me that Tim Duy does not get significantly more airplay in the general conversational mix than he does…