Economic Outlook for Bend and Central Oregon in 2021

Now that 2020 is finally behind us, it’s the perfect time to take a look ahead: What exactly is waiting in the future of Central Oregon? This time, we wanted to take a specific look at how the past year has affected the economy of Bend and the surrounding area, and what the outlook is for 2021. Here’s what you should know if you’re moving to Bend!

Real Estate Prices Continue to Grow

During 2020, real estate inventory in Bend was one of the many things to go into lockdown, with relatively low numbers of sellers in the market. However, trends like remote work and people seeking smaller cities to escape the crowds continued to make property in the area extremely popular, so home prices continued to rise, with the median sale price of residential properties shooting up as much as 14% toward the end of 2020. Home appreciation is expected to continue its fastest growth in 2021 since the Great Recession, although sellers that were waiting are also likely to add inventory to the market this year, leading to greater activity.

But there’s also good news for buyers: Interest rates for mortgages are expected to remain particularly low in this period as well.

Employment in Bend

In 2020, Bend and surrounding areas fought the impact of lockdown procedures halting various sectors – some hit harder than others. Deschutes County became the country with the third-highest share of layoffs in the state during the year, and employment in the third quarter was down 7.2% compared to the previous year.

However, the area also proved both adaptable and resilient. By the end of the year, many sectors had started to recover, while tourism continued to be profitable despite travel being discouraged. Although lockdown measures continue to affect the area, 2021 is shaping up to be a record year for tourism and will hopefully see the rebound of all sectors affected by 2020 conditions – dependent on things like vaccine rollout, of course.

That brings us to two positive observations. First, the health industry in Bend has remained strong, one of the largest employment sectors in the region with relatively little job loss. Second, Bend’s population continued to grow from outside relocation even during 2020, and 2021 should be another key year for population increases.

Overall Economic Expectations for 2021

After a sharp recovery in the third quarter of 2020, where the Central Oregon Business Index rose by 16%, growth slowed and stabilized as new lockdown measures were implemented. That puts the first quarter of 2021 in an interesting position: The first few months are likely to present challenges, followed by a period of activity and growth with a dramatic rebound likely as the year moves on.

Bend’s economy also saw continued diversification throughout 2020. As skilled professionals continue to move into the area in 2021, that diversification will provide a growing number of new opportunities for those living in Bend.

Long term estimates expect Central Oregon to have the highest job growth in Oregon by the end of the 2020s (narrowly beating out the Portland area), with healthcare and social assistance leading the pack. Software development, research analysis, and marketing are also expected to be key sectors for jobs and growth.