A recent study looked at unemployment, housing costs, commute times and more to determine each state's most-stressed city. Molalla won the prize for Oregon.
Perhaps "most-stressed" is not quite the right label, as the study from Zippia, a job-seeking company, uses data rather than polling citizens. But with 2013-17 U.S. Census American Community Survey data and Bureau of Labor and Statistics data, the study found that of all of Oregon's cities, Molalla's citizens experience the most perfect storm of stressors.
A snap shot of factors, per the U.S. Census data, that could be considered stressors are as follows.
With the unemployment rate, uninsured percentage, and commute time all higher than several area cities and the income level lower than several area cities, it is easy to see why the study found Molalla citizens experience a great deal of stressors.
Mayor Keith Swigart described how some of these factors are out of the control of city government and citizens, but that leaders are doing all they can to help Molalla citizens.
"We are now, through economic development and visioning process, concentrating on commercial and light industrial development," Swigart said. "We want to bring more living-wage jobs to our city, and fulfilling people's shopping and entertainment needs right here instead of them having to travel to other communities to fulfill them.
"We care about our friends and neighbors," Swigart said, "which is why we started the visioning process. We feel, unlike some communities, that the people, not the government, know what they want and what's best for them."
When it comes to unemployment, Swigart suggested some joblessness may be caused by the legalization of and use of marijuana.
"I have talked to some business owners about the amount of help-wanted signs for jobs that are not being filled," Swigart said. "I was told the problem is most applicants don't pass the drug screen. This seems a sign of the times, more so with the legalization of marijuana."
Swigart said this is a problem for the state legislators.
He said the long commute times are a repercussion of the decline of the timber industry in the area.
"The community had to start commuting farther to find work, making us a bedroom community," Swigart said. "Then came the housing boom, and the rise in prices. In California, home prices and the cost of living increased at a break-neck pace, causing people to move to Portland, increasing home prices leaps and bounds. People being priced out of the home market there, began looking at Molalla. Less expensive home prices and the small-town feel, along with safer smaller schools, brought them here, and started the growing pains. This has now led to terribly long commutes and less family time in the evenings. The long commute we can do nothing about."
With all that said though, Swigart believes the 2013-17 data does not represent the current state of Molalla. Indeed, one easily recognizable change is in the unemployment figure, which has improved to around 4 percent and is now in line with the county.
City Manager Dan Huff said the study does not accurately reflect Molalla, is not useful and he suggested the study is not legitimate. Whether Molalla ought to be considered the "most stressed" or not might be up for debate, but note that the stress factors listed above come directly from factual U.S. Census data.