BEND, OR -- Deschutes County has come a long way from the recession. February jobless numbers revealed the unemployment rate at 4%, the county's lowest since record-keeping began 27 years ago.
Regional Economist Damon Runberg says the tremendous post-recession job growth can lead to bigger paychecks. "Once you go beyond that full employment number, once it starts to improve beyond that, that gets into a point where labor starts to have a lot of leverage in the market. You start to see businesses have to compete more to find the best and brightest to hire. So, what that obvious means, initially, is you get some really impressive wage gains that come out of that."
But, he admits there is a downside to the tight labor market. Runberg tells KBND News, it can make it difficult for local companies to expand. "In Deschutes County, we've seen sustained job growth going back five or six years. Employment levels today are 10% above the pre-recession peak in Deschutes County; so, not only have we recovered all jobs, but we are in impressive, impressive expansion, right now. We can't maintain this level of job growth we've seen year over year over year," says Runberg. "Part of it is the labor issue. We can't maintain this level of job growth when we have this low of an unemployment rate. There's just not enough people to hire."
Runberg says the region's economy is much more diverse than prior to the recession, when tourism was the big economic driver. The High Desert has seen significant growth in recent years in professional services, high tech and outdoor recreation.
To listen to our full conversation with Economist Damon Runberg, visit our Podcast Page or click HERE.