The gross domestic product is among economists’ favorite metrics, a broad measure of all output that gives a comprehensive measure of economic health. It’s usually discussed in national terms, but the federal government produces state-by-state GDP measures, too.
The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Oregon’s GDP is growing at its fastest rate in years — and indicates the state’s economy is again outpacing the nation’s amid a robust expansion that’s still going strong after a decade.
Oregon’s GDP grew by 2.3% in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the same period of 2018, according to seasonally and inflation-adjusted figures. That compares to a 1.7% annual growth rate nationally during the same period.
Oregon’s growth rate last summer was the state’s fastest in nearly seven years and the eighth-fastest in the nation. Hawaii was No. 1 at 2.8%; Wyoming fared worst, falling 3.2% compared to the prior year.
What’s behind Oregon’s growth? Fluctuations in the state’s economic output are heavily influenced by its biggest industries, especially semiconductors.
Intel produces billions of dollars’ worth of microprocessors every year at its Ronler Acres factory complex in Hillsboro. So Oregon’s total GDP rises and falls based on the ups and downs of Intel’s sales and its production cycle.
Intel’s factories were running full tilt last year and even so, the company wasn’t able to produce enough chips to meet PC makers’ needs. At the same time, Intel has finally begun turning out its next-generation 10-nanometer processor — a new class of chip made first in Oregon.
Intel’s Oregon manufacturing will only grow in future years, with construction of a third phase of its massive D1X research factory under way at Ronler Acres. That new facility won’t be turning out chips for a couple years but the multibillion-dollar project may itself have contributed to last year’s boost in Oregon output.
It’s not just chips, though. Economic indicators in the middle of last year suggested a slowdown might be in the offing, but recent numbers are looking up.
Oregon’s jobless rate was 3.7% in December, the lowest since 1976 when the state began using the current methodology for tracking unemployment. There are fewer unemployed Oregonians than at any time in that period, even though the state’s workforce has doubled in the past 44 years.
Fast-growing sectors include the category that covers transportation, warehousing and utilities, and the category that includes and leisure and hospitality.