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C.O. jobless rates fall: A look behind the numbers


Central Oregon unemployment levels continued to fall in November, while seasonally adjusted hiring is up across the High Desert, the state Employment Department reported Monday.

The Bend Metropolitan Statistical Area (Deschutes County) posted its largest retail gains in November going back over 10 years. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined in all three Central Oregon counties in November.

Crook County posted the largest over-the-year drop of Oregon’s 36 counties. down to 11.7 percent. The Bend MSA dropped to 9.1 percent and Jefferson County reached 10.2 percent. Nationally, unemployment declined in November to 7 percent. Oregon’s rate declined to 7.3 percent, the lowest level in over five years.

Asked about the frequent complaints that the jobless rates don’t paint a full picture of the current economic issues, Central Oregon Regional Economist Damon Runberg offered this explanation Monday:

“It is a common misconception that when someone stops receiving unemployment insurance benefits that we no longer count them as “unemployed.” The unemployment rate is derived from a survey of households. An individual is classified as unemployed if they are not employed, they are 16 years or older, not on active duty in the military or in an institution, available for work, and making specific efforts to find employment within the last four weeks.

“For example, if someone loses their extended unemployment insurance benefits in the next couple weeks. they would still be counted as unemployed in the unemployment rate, assuming they are still available for work and making an effort to find work.

“The unemployment rate can drop by people finding work, thus no longer being counted as unemployed. The rate can also drop when folks who are unemployed stop looking for work (discouraged workers), they go back to school, or they retire.

“In Central Oregon, we are seeing the unemployment rate decline very rapidly. Deschutes County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in November, a significant reduction from 10.5 percent this time last year.

“Much of the unemployment rate decline is accounted for by Job growth, which is very strong on the High Desert. Deschutes County gained almost 2,000 jobs from this time last year. 97 percent of these new jobs are in the private-sector.

“However, our labor force in Deschutes County is also in decline. This is a pattern being seen across the rest of the state and nation. We don’t know much about the labor force decline here in Central Oregon, but at the state level, baby boomers retiring account for roughly half of the labor force decline.

“Nearly a quarter of the drop is accounted by a decline in young and young adult participation (ages 16 to 24). A relatively small percentage of this decline is due to “discouraged workers.”

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces several measures of unemployment. A more inclusive measure called the “U-6” rate includes those who are working part-time, but wish to work full time and those discouraged workers. This measure is not published at the county level, however. Oregon’s U-6 rate in October was16 percent, compared to the traditional measure at 7.6 percent.

“This large gap causes many to question the validity of the traditional measure of unemployment, however there is a very strong correlation between the two rates. As the unemployment rate declines, so too does the U-6 rate. In addition, discouraged workers only make up a very small percentage of the U-6 unemployed. In 2012, there were about 5,000 discouraged workers out of a civilian noninstitutional population of nearly 3.1 million (0.2%),” Runberg concluded.

Here’s the county-by-county breakdown for November:

Crook County : Crook County experienced a sharp drop in its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November, dropping to 11.7 percent from 12.1 percent in October. The county experienced the largest over-the-year drop of Oregon’s 36 counties down from 13.7 percent last November.

The county lost 150 jobs in November, which was fewer than the loss of 160 jobs expected this time of year.

Monthly job losses were nearly split between the private (-70) and public sector (-80). Professional and business services shed 30 jobs from October. Seasonal decreases continued in federal government (-50); leisure and hospitality (-20); and construction (-20).

Crook County continues to show sustained over-the-year job gains. Private employment is up by 5.6 percent (+240) from last year, while government lost jobs. Nearly all private industries gained jobs over the past year with transportation, warehousing, and utilities leading the way with 90 new jobs. Other large gains were seen in wholesale trade (+50); manufacturing (+40); and educational and health services (+30).

Deschutes County (Bend MSA) : Deschutes County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to drop, down to 9.1 percent in November from 9.4 percent in October. Over-the-year, Deschutes County posted the largest drop of Oregon’s metro areas. The November 2012 rate was 10.5 percent.

Preliminary estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Bend metropolitan area show a decrease of 200 jobs in November. This represents a seasonally adjusted gain of 180 jobs. Retail trade posted significant gains, up 440 jobs from October, the county’s largest retail gains in November going back over ten years. Local government also posted significant gains in November, up 310 jobs. Seasonal decreases continued in leisure and hospitality (-480) and mining, logging, and construction (-190).

Over-the-year, Deschutes County gained 1,920 jobs. The private sector continues to account for the majority of these gains (+1,870). All private industries experienced gains over the past year, except financial activities (-20). The largest gains were seen in professional and business services (+500); retail trade (+490); educational and health services (+310); and mining, logging, and construction (+280).

Jefferson County : The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased in November to 10.2 percent, down from 10.4 percent in October. Over-the-year, Jefferson County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from the November 2012 rate of 11.9 percent, the second-largest drop, behind Crook County.

Jefferson County lost 110 jobs in November, when a loss of 60 jobs would typically be expected this time of year. The largest losses were seen in Indian tribal government (-50) and leisure and hospitality (-40). Retail trade and manufacturing each added 10 jobs in November.

Over the past year, employment is up 140 jobs in Jefferson County. Manufacturing continues to lead the recovery, adding 120 jobs over-the-year. Other notable gains were seen in retail trade and leisure and hospitality, each up 70 jobs. Wholesale trade posted the only significant declines (-70) from last November.

A code change occurred in January 2013, where a firm was moved from local government to educational and health services. Due to this change, a series break was created in total private, government, local government, and educational and health services. 2012 monthly figures in these industries are not comparable to 2013 monthly estimates.

Benton County had Oregon’s lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November at 5.4 percent. Harney County (11.9%) registered the highest rate for the month. Fifteen of Oregon’s counties had unemployment rates at or below the statewide rate of 7.3 percent and 11 were below the nationwide rate of 7.0 percent. Crook County saw the largest improvement in its unemployment rate over the year with a drop of 2.0 percentage points.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose in five of Oregon’s six broad regions between November 2012 and November 2013. The largest job gains occurred in Central Oregon (+2.8%). The Portland area (+1.9%), Southern Oregon (+1.8%), the Willamette Valley (+1.2%), and the Oregon Coast (+1.1%) also saw job growth over the year. Employment declined by 0.2 percent over the year in Eastern Oregon.

These estimates will be revised as new data from businesses becomes available. The next Central Oregon Employment Situation, with preliminary data for December 2013, will be released on Monday, January 27 th .

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