BEND, OR -- Central Oregon counties saw unemployment rates remain relatively flat in August. However, regional economist Damon Runberg tells KBND there was good news again on the hiring front. "Looking at it as an individual month, it was fairly uneventful. Hiring was, we’ll say, decently strong. I think Deschutes County was a bit surprising, we had a pretty significant jump in hiring in August compared to what we’d normally expect, seasonally. A lot of that looks like it was from a late-season push from both our tourism sector and construction."
Unemployment in Deschutes County remained essentially unchanged, going from 6.6% in July to 6.5% in August. Crook County's rate increased from 8.6 to 8.7% and Jefferson County rose .3 points to 7.5%. Runberg says, "It’s not really a statistically significant jump, it could be just white noise for all we know. But, to compare the two, Crook County in general is in a situation where they’re not seeing very much job growth, the labor force is declining, and the unemployment rate’s not really getting any better. On the other hand, Jefferson County has seen some more significant job growth and their labor force is growing; so people are either moving to Jefferson County, or more people are looking for work again. There’s kind of some more optimism coming out of Jefferson County."
Runberg says the growing labor force is a good thing because it means people are moving here looking for work, but it does cause a problem. "It actually puts a negative pressure on the unemployment rate, so it can make the unemployment rate rise, because when those people first move here or just graduate from school or whatever it is, they initially enter the workforce usually as unemployed. So, in the long-run, we may actually see the unemployment rate rise moving forward for a couple months. But, in the long-run, that’s a really good thing because it means we are getting those workers who are hopefully back filling the retirees who are leaving right now, which are significant numbers."
This month's flat numbers are in line with the statewide trend. "In general, it seems like our improvements - our expanding economy - are slowing a little bit. There are signs that, even though we have exceptional growth in employment right now – Deschutes County, for example is up 5.8% the number of jobs from this time last year – so, really strong growth. But, that rate of growth is really slowing down," Runberg says. "It definitely seems like we’ve got to the point where we’re in an expanding economy and maybe that expansion is slowing down just a little bit, right now."