At least momentarily, I can comment again at Bogdanski’s site [apparently, I spoke too soon, I was able to post a comment but he yanked it within a half hour], and a post about the evil anti-business practices of Portland made me give it a shot caught my attention.

At the heart was a segment from an NPR call-in show suggesting that someone interested in moving to Oregon from Utah should avoid the Portland area and head to Salem because of the bad economy here.

No dispute about that from me (I’m coming up on three years of looking for a job) but the commenters went off like a pack of baying hounds about how “Portland is out of control and very unfriendly to business” based on the interviewee’s statement that “Portland is also highly regulated,” which has led to its poor economy.

The idea that Salem or anywhere else in the state that lets you “avoid the Portland-Vancouver, Washington area” is better economically isn’t backed up by many facts.

Oregon’s official overall unemployment rate in March 2010 was 10.6% (compared to 9.7% across the country). Portland metro was 10.7%, but Salem metro is only marginally better, at 10.2%. The advantage Salem has over Portland is equal to the advantage a randomly-chosen place somewhere in the country is likely to have over Salem. Eugene-Springfield is tied with Portland. Medford’s more than a point higher (11.7%) and Bend’s at 13.3%. The only metro area in the state that looks decent is Corvallis, at 7.6%.

And if anyone had done any checking, they would have figured out that Vancouver is what’s dragging the Portland metro figures up. The Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is made up of Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Yamhill, and Columbia counties in Oregon and Clark and Skamania counties in Washington. You’d think that anyone informed about the local economy would know that the situation on the north side of the river has been dicier than in Portland proper for several years, but let’s take a look at the unemployment rates and the size of the workforce those rates are calculated on.

Multnomah County: 10.1% (392K civilian labor force). Clackamas County: 10.4% (203K). Washington County: 9.0% (291K). Yamhill County is right at 10.6% (49K). To get an average of 10.6% from those counties would be rather difficult, Yamhill would have to have a hell of a lot of people, but in reality just the opposite is true. The most populous counties have rates of unemployment lower than the average for the MSA.

Columbia County’s unemployment rate is 12.1% (25K), but its workforce is 1/10th that of Clackamas County alone. It doesn’t have enough people to bring up the average.

However, Skamania (5K) and Clark (222K) counties are running unemployment rates well over any of the Oregon counties in the MSA, both are at 14.6% in March, and Clark is big enough that it can affect the average unemployment rate for the MSA.

I don’t expect this argument to have any effect on the knee-jerk idealogues, but the truth of the matter is that as bad as Portland’s economy is, the problem across the river — in another state, that’s not “highly-regulated” — is a lot more severe. If people were honest about it, they’d have to find some other explanation.