Cottage Grove: A Data Update

by Henry Fields

May 9, 2023

Given the economic turmoil since early 2020, many people are curious about the recovery and trends around the county. Just as the economic structure and status of recovery differ around the state, there are key differences within Lane County as well. I wanted to share an example about the most recent data concerning one community in southern Lane County: Cottage Grove.

Population and Demographics

Cottage Grove is a city of about 10,000 at the southern end of the Willamette Valley.  Like most communities of Lane County, its economy and demographic trends are related to what’s happening in the nearby urbanized area of Eugene-Springfield, although there are several key distinctions.
Table showing population trends

Over the course of the last two decades, Cottage Grove has added population faster than Lane County. In fact, over the course of the 2000s, the city grew faster than the state, all of which has helped make Cottage Grove a regional center of economic activity.

Cottage Grove residents have a lower median household income than the county, state, and nation, and are slightly less likely to participate in the labor force than the U.S. This difference in participation rate isn’t likely due to an older population, because the age structure of Cottage Grove is remarkably similar to the U.S., with a median age of 38.5 and 16% of the population 65 years and older.
Table showing labor force and income

Cottage Grove residents are less likely to have an associate’s degree or higher or not to have graduated high school, and are more likely to have attended some college without obtaining a degree. Higher levels of education are associated with higher workforce participation, higher wages, and lower unemployment, although particular outcomes vary widely by occupation and industry.
Table showing educational attainment (25+)

Economy and Workforce

Employers within the limits of Cottage Grove’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) employed an average of 3,635 workers in 2021 across 442 establishments. The average wage per worker was about 25% lower than the county, which undoubtedly contributes to the lower household income.
Table showing employment and wages, annual average 2021

A key (although not the only) reason for that lower wage is the industry mix. Cottage Grove employment is more concentrated in industries such as retail trade and leisure and hospitality. In the table below, industries that make up more of the local mix of employment than in the county are highlighted in green, while those with fewer workers out of the total are in red.
Table showing percentage of total employment, annual average 2021

Manufacturing is an example of a high-wage industry that is more heavily concentrated in Cottage Grove, and in fact the industry pays a higher average wage (around $65,000) than in the county (around $61,000).

Not everyone who lives in Cottage Grove works there, and in fact like many smaller cities near urbanized areas, there is a large swap between workers and residents during working hours. Of the estimated 4,200 workers living in Cottage Grove, nearly 3,500 commute outside the city for work (82%). Conversely, for the 3,100 employed in city limits using this measure, 2,300 (75%) commute in from the outside.
Figure showing Cottage Grove commute exchange

Cottage Grove’s economy lost about the same percentage of jobs in the first few months of 2020 as the county, but its recovery through the middle of 2022 led Lane by a few percentage points.

As of the most recent data (March 2023), Lane County remains about 3% down in jobs relative to February 2020 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

New data about economies, employment, and population comes out all the time, so in addition to resources like the Census Reporter and, your local workforce analyst can provide data or show you how to access it for the communities you’re interested in knowing more about. Please reach out at the contact us page if there are ways we can assist.

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