PORTLAND MAY HAVE lived through record unemployment this summer, but a new survey suggests a bleak job market did little to dampen the enthusiasm of our citizenry for living here. In fact, a new survey by the city auditor's office shows Portlanders are happier than ever with their city—with 83 percent of people surveyed awarding high ratings to Portland's livability, an increase from 76 percent five years ago.
Statewide unemployment figures may be down from 12.2 percent in May to 11.3 percent as of Monday, November 16, but net job loss in the Portland metro area continues, with the loss of 14,000 jobs since May. In the last 12 months, the metro area has lost 60,800 jobs, which accounts for 5.9 percent of all jobs.
Because the unemployment rate is falling, those net job loss numbers suggest people may be leaving the workforce—deciding to stop looking for work, or physically leaving Oregon, says Christian Kaylor, a workforce analyst with the Oregon Employment Department.
"People may be deciding to go live in their mom's basement, take antidepressants, and play Xbox," he says. "They have essentially given up."
Meanwhile, satisfaction with the city's police bureau is also up since 2005, from 63 percent to 70 percent, despite the outstanding lawsuit against the city over the 2006 death in custody of James Chasse, a man with schizophrenia. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of Portland residents rate city government's job positively, an 11 percent increase from five years ago. However, while 74 percent of close-in Northeast residents rate city government highly, only 48 percent of East Portland residents agree.
"I can definitely see why central Portland residents would be more in love with city government," says Nick Christensen, vice chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association, out in East Portland. "They have their streets paved, and businesses are flourishing even in the midst of the recession."
Still, Christensen thinks the city is starting to pay more attention to outlying neighborhoods like his, and he was encouraged recently by Mayor Sam Adams' suggestion that extensions to the city's streetcar network should begin in outer East Portland and work their way back into the city, rather than the other way around.
"People can be dissatisfied all they want," Christensen concludes. "But outer East Portland is still a paradise compared to areas of other Western cities."