For this week's "Bend Don't Break" podcast, our guest is Josh Lehner, an Oregon state economist whose work has been published in the New York Times, NPR and the Washington Post. With a particular focus on the outlook for Central Oregon, Josh talks about the region’s strong professional services sector and how these types of jobs will play an insulating role within the local economy, despite tourism’s devastating decline.
He told us about the state’s large reserves going into the downturn and how this will soften the blow, even with new demands for Medicaid and other services. Lehner explains Oregon’s unique “kicker” tax law, and reports surging revenues from sin taxes on marijuana and alcohol.
Deschutes county ranks in the top five places in the county for workers who telecommute, and census statistics demonstrate that one in eight workers here are remote, Lehner said. We also explore some issues of racial discrimination and how economists use statistics to bring hard data into the dialogue about wage disparities and lost opportunities.
Finally, we explore the possibility of permanent economic damage caused by the coronavirus. Our conversation ends on a positive note as we discuss the benefits of growth in Central Oregon and how this region attracts smart, innovative workers that will continue to drive the local entrepreneurial economy as it slowly recovers from one of the worst recessions in recent history.