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Central Oregon job picture shows urban-rural split


As 2016 drew to a close, Central Oregon’s employment picture continued to show an urban-rural split between strong and weak job growth, the state’s regional economist said Tuesday. But there also was some good news, with unemployment rates falling to their lowest levels in many years.

“There was a distinct urban-rural divide in Central Oregon’s economy in 2016,” said Regional Economist Damon Runberg in his monthly report.

“The predominately urban Deschutes County, anchored by our population centers in Bend and Redmond, posted exceptional rates of job growth,” he added. “A high level of labor demand helped to lower unemployment to historically low levels in Deschutes County.

“These employment gains did not spill over into our rural counties. Both Crook and Jefferson counties saw little change to their employment situation in 2016,” Runberg added.

Here’s his monthly report:

Crook County: The unemployment rate dropped significantly, to 6.5 percent in December. The last time Crook County posted a rate this low was in October 2007. The rate was 7 percent in November and 8 percent last December.

The county shed 120 jobs over the past month, fewer than the expected loss of 180 jobs this time of year. Losses were mainly concentrated in construction, manufacturing, and federal government, each losing 20 jobs from November.

There has been little improvement to the employment situation in Crook County over the past year. The county only added around 50 jobs from last December (+0.9%). Manufacturing continues to lose jobs, down 70 from this time last year (-12.1%). No other industry posted significant job losses. There were notable gains in education and health services (+50). Although gains were relatively small (+20 jobs), information saw the fastest rate of job growth in 2016 (+18.2%).

Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond MSA): The unemployment rate remained little changed, at 4.4 percent in December. Today’s unemployment rate matches the lowest levels reached during the last expansion in 2006. The rate is down significantly from this time last year, when it was 5.6 percent.

Seasonal job losses continued with Deschutes County shedding 550 jobs from November. There were fewer losses than typically expected this time of year despite the large winter storm that disrupted construction and business service firms. However, that same snow event was also a boon for tourism businesses with the leisure and hospitality sector adding 270 jobs in December.

Employment levels remain up significantly from this time last year, with an additional 3,630 jobs from December 2015. That represents a growth of around 4.8 percent over the past year.

Rates of growth slowed through 2016 as the labor supply continues to tighten. Job growth is largely concentrated in the private sector, accounting for over 85 percent of the gains seen over the past year. Education and health services added more jobs than any other industry (+1,100) and was the fastest growing industry (+9%). Retail; professional and business services; and construction all posted impressive job gains from 2015.

Jefferson County: The unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent in December from the revised rate of 6.6 percent in November. The rate is down significantly from last December, when it was 7.2 percent.

Jefferson County shed 90 jobs in December, fewer losses than typically expected this time of year.

Employment levels are unchanged from this time last year. There were subtle gains in the private sector (+40 jobs), but these were negated by losses in local and tribal governments. Industry gains were concentrated in construction (+30) and retail trade (+20).

The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the January county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, March 7 th and the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data on Tuesday, February 28 th .

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