July 13, 2024


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Job growth starts to slow on High Desert after recovery from ‘pandemic shock,’ state economist says

(Update: Adding other rates around state)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Employment growth is beginning to slow across Central Oregon, as all three counties have recovered from the pandemic shock, a state Employment Department regional economist said Wednesday.

“Job gains are becoming more consistent with normal seasonal patterns seen before the pandemic,” Regional Economist Damon Runberg said in his monthly report, looking at May’s job figures. “Unemployment rates are at or near historic low levels.”

Here’s the rest of his report for May:

Crook County: The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.8% in May, down from a revised rate of 5.0% in April. The unemployment rate is fast approaching the record low set before the pandemic in February 2020, when it was 4.4%.

Crook County added 100 jobs in May, slower growth than typical for this time of year. Despite the slow growth last month employment levels in Crook County are up over 10% from pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (+690 jobs).

The county added 490 jobs in the last year (+7.1%). Crook County’s rate of job growth was faster than every county in Oregon with the exception of the hyper-rural Gilliam County (+14.5%). These job gains continue to be concentrated in information (+140 jobs); construction (+140); and professional and business services (+70). There were no notable job losses over the past year.

Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond MSA): The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.4% in May, a slight drop from 3.5% in April. The difference between today’s unemployment rate and the record low level of 3.3% before the onset of the pandemic is not statistically significant.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Deschutes County added 800 jobs in May, marginally stronger gains than what is typical for this time of year. The metro area posted total nonfarm levels above 90,000 for the first time as the local labor market continues to expand. Employment levels in May 2022 exceeded February 2020 levels before the onset of the pandemic by 730 jobs (+0.8%).

Total nonfarm employment expanded by 2.5% (+2,150 jobs) from May 2021. Deschutes County is no longer the fastest growing metro area in the state as several metro areas that have been slow to recover from the pandemic shock saw faster job gains over the past year, including Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, and Albany.

Roughly half of the job gains over the past year in Deschutes County were concentrated in the hard hit leisure and hospitality sector (+1,170 jobs) where employment levels are only 2.4% below the previous peak in 2019. There were also notable job gains in manufacturing (+370 jobs); education and health services (+250); and construction (+230). Retail continues to post job losses, down 220 jobs from last year. There was also a modest decline of 70 jobs in the information sector.

Jefferson County: The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6% in May, down from 4.8% in April. The unemployment rate is fast approaching levels in February 2020 when it was 4.1% before the first impacts from COVID-19.

Total nonfarm employment rose by 150 jobs in May, stronger gains than normal for this time of year. Jefferson County has now largely recovered from the pandemic shock with the seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment of 6,700 in May in line with the pre-pandemic peak.

Jefferson County added 220 jobs over the past year (+3.3%). Job gains were concentrated in leisure and hospitality (+90 jobs) and wood product manufacturing (+60 jobs). The only notable job losses over the past year were in professional and business services (-20 jobs).

In May, unemployment rates declined in 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties. Unemployment rates in three counties did not decline, but held steady over the month. Thirteen counties had unemployment rates at or below the statewide and nationwide rate of 3.6% in May.

Klamath County had Oregon’s highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (5.3%) in May. Other counties with relatively high unemployment rates were Grant (5.2%), Curry (4.9%), and Lincoln (4.9%). Benton, Hood River, and Wheeler counties registered the lowest unemployment rates in May, at 2.9% each. Other counties with some of the lowest unemployment rates in May included Washington (3.0%), Sherman (3.1%), and Gilliam (3.2%).

Between May 2021 and May 2022, total nonfarm employment rose in each of the six broad regions across Oregon. The Willamette Valley region experienced the fastest job growth over the year at 4.1%. Employment also grew at a relatively fast pace in the five Portland-metro counties (3.7%) and Central Oregon region (3.3%). Growth occurred at a slower pace along the Coast (1.3%), in Eastern Oregon (0.8%), and in Southern Oregon (0.7%).

Next Press Releases

The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the June county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, July 26 and the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for June on Wednesday, July 20.