BEND, OR -- Deschutes County’s jobless rate has held relatively steady for the past five months, with the the county avoiding major layoff events through most of 2017. But, that could change as St. Charles Health System follows through on plans to lay off workers in an effort to close a $25- to $35-million budget gap.
Regional employment economist Damon Runberg says it’s hard to know just how it will impact the numbers. "I think we’ll notice it; definitely. I mean, St. Charles is a really major employer in Central Oregon, obviously. I think it’ll be noticeable. We haven’t seen it hit the numbers yet, though. I think maybe the December, January numbers, we’ll start to see more of an impact there."
However, Runberg tells KBND News it shouldn’t have a drastic impact on the region's overall unemployment rate because healthcare has been a growing industry in Central Oregon, "I don’t believe it’s going to turn it from being an industry that’s been gaining jobs to an industry that will be losing jobs, though, going forward. If anything, we’ll just see the industry sort of level-off or plateau, I’d imagine, with those layoffs." He says healthcare is an industry everyone needs and is driven by non-discretionary spending, "What drives non-discretionary expenses tends to be population - the more people; the more people need to use health services - As well as the demographics of a community; so, the how old a community is. The older it is, the more people use health services. So, we are both growing rapidly and we are aging simultaneously. And so, those two things together, I don’t think we’re going to see too much of a negative impact on healthcare in the long run." And, Runberg thinks those laid off from St. Charles will find new work quickly, "In different settings, obviously. We only have one hospital system here in Central Oregon, but we do have lots of healthcare outside the hospital setting."
To listen to our full conversation with Damon Runberg, visit our Podcast Page or click HERE.