Adding up $6.8 Billion in Credit Union Impact

The recent analysis from ECONorthwest showed that Northwest credit unions generate $6.8 billion in economic impact. But where does that figure come from? What does it include?

This article breaks down the numbers so you can see exactly what that $6.8 billion means and how it impacts the communities of Oregon and Washington.

What Goes Into $6.8 Billion?

The ECONorthwest report looks at the economic impact of credit unions as businesses. So the impact they measure is based on the things credit unions pay for: goods and services, wages and benefits, capital expenditures, etc. The study also includes the unique direct benefits that credit unions return to their members by virtue of their not-for-profit cooperative structure.

The ECONorthwest analysis does not include the value of credit unions’ lending activity or the additional value their members bring to their communities due to improved financial circumstances. These numbers would send the impact soaring even higher.

The economic impact of credit unions is divided into two categories: direct impacts, and indirect/induced impacts. Direct impacts measure the outcome of credit unions’ own use of goods and services — wages, income for their vendors, contractor income for capital expenditures, etc.

Indirect and induced impacts measure what happens when those direct impacts go back out into society. For instance, a credit union employee uses her wages to pay for preschool. That preschool’s income was generated indirectly by the credit union. Or a credit union supplier hires another worker to keep up with demand. That employee’s wages are an indirect impact of credit unions.

Indirect and induced impacts are calculated using economic multipliers, which show how credit unions’ economic impact ripples through the region. By adding all the direct and indirect impacts together we get the total impact of credit unions on the Northwest.

The Breakdown


Credit unions are known for employing great people. And the ECONorthwest report shows that, between Oregon and Washington, credit unions employed over 15,000 people in 2014. Those credit union jobs generated more than 30,000 more jobs in the Northwest, for a total of over 46,000 jobs.

The 15,000 credit union jobs generated $1.06 billion in wages and benefits for employees in the Northwest. These employees’ spending created an induced economic impact of another $1.37 billion through the economic multiplier effect. So the total impact of credit union jobs in the Northwest is $2.43 billion.

Direct Member Benefits

The unique not-for-profit, cooperative structure of credit unions allows them to deliver direct benefits back into the pockets of their members. As these members invest those benefits back into the economy it creates further impact.

ECONorthwest calculated that Northwest credit unions generated $352 million in direct benefits for their members in 2014. These induced $380 million in further impact, for a total direct benefit impact of $732 million.

Other Impacts

Like any other business, credit unions rely on a host of vendors for supplies, services, and capital investments. From software services to technology hardware to construction contractors, credit unions are deeply integrated in the business economy.

The direct impact of all of the economic activity is $1.52 billion dollars going into the Northwest economy. Through the economic ripple effect, this impact creates another $2.17 billion in regional economic impact. Taken together, all of these other impacts add up to $3.69 billion.


Taken together, the $2.43 billion impact of credit union jobs, the $732 million of direct member benefits, and the $3.69 billion of credit unions’ other economic activity adds up to over $6.8 billion. Looking at this impact it becomes clear how foundational credit unions are to the economy of the Northwest, benefiting their members, their employees, and hundreds or thousands of other businesses throughout the region.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

Posted in Marketing & Communications.