Survey shows downtown Portland employment is healthy

Business owners and retailers cite livability issues as top concern

Dec 5, 2017

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Rachael Arnold at

PORTLAND, Ore. – Downtown Clean & Safe recently released data showing employment, wages and businesses in downtown Portland are continuing to grow. Despite this growth and a majority of downtown business owners and retailers saying they feel safe, concerns remain around the livability issues that many experience in downtown.
According to the 2016 Downtown Business Census & Survey, employment in the downtown Portland area increased by 2 percent between 2015 and 2016, from 97,281 to 99,031 jobs, an overall wage growth of 6 percent. Additionally, the number of businesses downtown increased by 4 percent, from 4,770 to 4,958.
“The continued growth in jobs and wages is great news for downtown Portland,” said Peter Andrews, chair of the Downtown Clean & Safe board and a broker at Melvin Mark Companies. “Similar to past years, we saw employment increase in the technology sector, a booming industry in Portland.”
“While this progress indicates that employment in downtown is thriving, we continue to work on Portland’s livability issues. It is encouraging that Mayor Wheeler is addressing these concerns by announcing the city will implement additional tools to impact Portland’s livability issues, such as high-pedestrian zones and expanded police walking patrols. Additionally, the Clean & Safe board recently made a number of investments to immediately address downtown cleanliness, including a 30 percent increase in staffing for mobile cleaning units, which are staffed by formerly homeless individuals contracted through Central City Concern’s employment programs. Also, by summer 2018, we will have installed more garbage cans downtown, with the city providing more frequent collection. We look forward to continuing our work with the mayor and other elected leaders to ensure downtown is welcoming for business owners, employees and visitors alike.”
Key report findings include:
  • Employment in the downtown area grew 2 percent between 2015 and 2016, from 97,281 to 99,031 jobs.
  • Wages increased 6 percent from 2015 to 2016, from $6,843,920,476 to $7,251,758,831.
  • Businesses in downtown increased 4 percent between 2015 and 2016, from 4,770 to 4,958.
  • Sectors with the most notable employee increases include Finance and Insurance, Professional Scientific and Technical Services, as well as Educational Services, and Accommodation and Food Services.
  • Sectors with the most notable increase in the number of businesses downtown include Information, as well as Professional Scientific and Technical Services.
  • When asked about safety in downtown, 95 percent of respondents said they feel downtown is safe.
  • When asked about cleanliness downtown, half of respondents said it needs improvement. The need for improved cleanliness has increased over past years, from 29 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2016.  
  • Top factors influencing businesses locating or staying in downtown include: 1) central location; 2) proximity to other businesses; and 3) access to public transportation.
  • Areas identified that need to be addressed include 1) transients, 2) panhandlers, and 3) parking.
  • The number of people taking public transportation continues to drop, while driving alone is rising; currently 53 percent of downtown workers drive.
  • The number of bike commuters remains unchanged from 2015 at 5 percent. 
The Downtown Clean & Safe District conducts the Business Census & Survey each year, surveying employers within the I-405/I-5 loop. The district partners with Prosper Portland on employment data provided by the state of Oregon. Other survey data is collected using mailed questionnaires, personal follow-up and block-by-block canvassing to obtain a statistically significant survey sample. Survey data was gathered from October 2015 to October 2016.   
View the entire Downtown Business Census & Survey results.
Downtown Clean & Safe District
Downtown’s Clean & Safe District was created more than 25 years ago to support additional cleaning and security in the Central City. The district, funded by downtown property owners and managers, includes 213 blocks in the Central City, and also supports market research and retail recruitment and retention efforts. The district is managed by the Portland Business Alliance under the direction of the district’s board of directors.