CENTRAL OREGON -- Unemployment across the tri-county area dropped slightly in May. Regional Economist Damon Runberg says Central Oregon jobless rates are looking about the same for this summer season, as they did last year at this same time, and he's not expecting any drastic fluctuations in the near future. "We didn't really add more jobs than was normal, and we didn't add fewer jobs than was normal, sort of a continuation of what we'd expect, and so, long term for us, that means no likelihood of seeing a big jump in employment growth, I think, for the rest of 2019."
But, he says, for the first time in quite awhile, there was a slight job loss in one sector in Deschutes County -- 320 jobs were lost in Professional and Business Services. Even so, Deschutes County’s unemployment rate was 4.3% last month and added 1,000 jobs. Jefferson County was at 5.6% and Crook County was 5.8%.
Runberg says Central Oregon appears to be moving into a new slow-growth phase of the current expansion. "We've had a very diverse expansion, It wasn't just one single industry that pulled us out of the recession and was adding jobs. I think we're going to have a summer season that looks very similar to what we saw last year, which was busy, right? Lots of people here, lots of activity, lots of leisure and hospitality employment, etc., lots of construction, but we're not going to be, I don't think, any busier than we were last year."
Runberg says Crook County's manufacturing sector is still showing strong growth, with 120 added jobs over 2019 and he says all three counties showed slight drops in their unemployment rates. "After a few months of its sort of bouncing upward, it's sort of bounced back down. It's still relatively difficult for those businesses that are hiring to find those workers in such a low labor supply situation."
Job gains are widespread with gains in construction, health services, leisure and hospitality, retail, and manufacturing.