County council considers employment forecast

The Clark County Council on Wednesday moved forward with the next step in updating the county’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan by reviewing employment projections for the next 20 years.

Community Development Director Oliver Orjiako said the projections rely on the 1.4 percent annual population growth estimates adopted by the council in May.

Scott Bailey, regional economist for the Washington Employment Security Department, worked with the county to prepare the projections. Bailey noted the numbers are projections, not a forecast.

“If you haven’t figured out yet, economists are pretty awful at forecasting,” Bailey told the council. “How many economists said we would be in a recession by now and we’re nowhere close.”

Bailey said the employment projections started with one question: “If Clark County grows such that its 2045 population is 718,154, what does that imply for employment?”

In addition to the population growth forecast, the jobs projection relied on the county’s goal of a 1-to-1 jobs-to-housing ratio.

Total nonfarm employment in 2022 was 180,900 jobs. According to Bailey’s report, that number is expected to grow to 269,000 by 2045.

Among the jobs categories expected to see the most growth are construction and mining, some manufacturing such as transportation equipment and nondurable goods, information services, professional services, health care and state government.

Other categories, like logging, wood products and computer manufacturing, will see minimal or even no growth.

“In a 20-year projection like that, of course you can pick apart a lot of different things. But what I’ve tried to do is make my assumptions very transparent,” Bailey told the council.

Bailey said if the county’s goal is to have a 1-to-1 jobs-to-housing ratio, that will mean there will need to be more jobs in Clark County (as opposed to traveling to Portland for work) and more land will have to be zoned for commercial and industrial use to accommodate those jobs.

“The good part of having a better jobs-to-housing ratio is that improves the fiscal situation for local governments,” Bailey said. “Residential property tax does not pay for itself, in terms of the services needed. You need that balance of commercial, industrial and residential (land).”

Bailey said other factors such as the relatively recent increase in remote work, climate change and any local policies adopted could have an impact on the number and types of jobs coming to Clark County.

The county council will hold a public hearing on the employment projections although a date for that hearing has not been set.

To view the report and watch the full meeting, go to

— Shari Phiel

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