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Strong spring hiring keeps C. Oregon jobless rates low


Seasonal hiring was stronger than expected in March across much of Central Oregon, the Oregon Employment Department reported Tuesday. Despite better than expected hiring, unemployment rates across the region were largely unchanged from their historically low levels.

Crook County: The unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.0 percent, from 6.2 percent in February. The rate was 7.4 percent last March.

Seasonal hiring began in March, with Crook County adding 90 jobs from February, a slightly larger gain than typically expected this time of year. Expect to see the pace of hiring accelerate as we move closer to summer, Regional Economist Damon Runberg said in his monthly report.

Total nonfarm employment is largely unchanged from last March. There are around 30 more jobs from this time last year, which would not be considered significant growth (+0.5%). Modest job growth in health care, information, and construction is largely being negated by the continued declines in wood product manufacturing.

Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond MSA): The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged in March at the series low of 4.0 percent. The rate is down from last March, when it was 4.7 percent, not a statistically significant decline.

There continued to be strong early spring hiring, with Deschutes County adding 770 jobs from February. Monthly gains continue to outpace seasonal expectations this year, as the county typically only adds around 360 jobs in March. These gains were largely driven by private-sector hiring, with particularly strong gains from the professional sector, construction, retail, and leisure & hospitality.

Job growth over the past year maintained its strong pace at 3.9 percent (+2,980 jobs) from March 2016.

The current economic expansion continues to be diverse, Runberg said, with the largest gains in health care, professional and business services, retail, financial activities, and construction.

Manufacturing also posted impressive gains over the past year. “These are not all brewing jobs,” Runberg wrote, “as durable goods manufacturers accounted for over half the manufacturing jobs added.” Leisure and hospitality was the only industry sector to post losses from last year, perhaps a sign that the tourism industry is reaching a plateau after years of fast growth, the economist said.

Jefferson County: The unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in March, down slightly from 5.7 percent in February. The rate is down significantly from last March when it was 6.9 percent.

Jefferson County added 80 jobs in March, fairly typical hiring for this time of year.

There were around 110 more jobs in Jefferson County in March compared to the same time last year (+1.8%). The private sector expanded at a faster pace (+3.8%) due to particularly strong gains from wood products manufacturing, construction, and financial activities. Public sector losses were largely concentrated in the Indian tribal government.

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