Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Portland Economy: Incomes are Better than Average After All

Last week the Portland Business Alliance released a report produced by ECONorthwest which was reported on by The Oregonian.  In it the big news was how much worse off were Portland metro workers relative to the US average:

A telling graph in the report, “A Checkup on the Portland Region’s Economic Health,” shows that as personal incomes wobble, tax revenues bounce wildly wreaking havoc in budgets for state services.

“If we want to improve revenue available to support these services, we need to start with good-quality jobs that generate the wages and incomes that can be taxed,” said Sandi McDonough, chief executive of the Portland Business Alliance, greater Portland’s chamber of commerce.

This is the same report that, last year, I criticized quite strongly for being sloppy and misleading and took ECONorthwest to task for the low quality of the work.   So you'd like to think that they paid particular attention to year's report and made sure it was excellent. Nope. Today, The Oregonian reports that the headline data from the report was all wrong, and the conclusion is exactly the opposite:

Portland-area incomes didn't fall faster and farther during the recession than national per capita income, as a study issued last week by local business groups reported.

In fact, per capita incomes in metro Portland declined slightly more slowly than national incomes -- and rebounded somewhat faster.


The mistakes occurred in final editing conducted by the Portland Business Alliance and ECONorthwest, a consulting firm that provided the data. Josh Lehner, an economist at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, spotted the errors.

Good old Josh Lehner, you all know him as the author of the OEA blog and Twitter feed, but I know him as the go-to guy on state economy data.  As for ECONorthwest, what can you say?  "Mistakes in final editing?!?" Final editing? That is total horsepucky: they mucked up the most basic data comparison, they should at least own their mistake.  These are people who charge a premium because they are supposed to be good at this stuff - you'd hope they would be a bit more careful, especially on such a high profile project.  And if you go to the report, you'll find no mention that it was revised, which is totally inexcusable.

I wondered about this, by the way, when I blogged about the report that said state personal income tax collections were rising much faster than the national average.  Yes the change and the level are not the same thing, but the erroneous graph suggests that the rate of change is lower as well.

So spare a thought for the beleaguered corps of exceptionally talented bureaucrats like Josh who toil in relative anonymity and yet day after day provide excellent service to Oregonians.  They are under-appreciated.    


Jeff Alworth said...

Good god, man, chill out. They only got one word wrong--worse, better ... you know, it's pretty close.

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