BEND, OR -- Unemployment rates dropped significantly across Central Oregon, last month. Regional Economist Damon Runberg tells KBND News Deschutes County holiday hiring led the charge. "Between October and November we saw the retail sector jump by 400 jobs. I looked back historically at other periods of retail holiday hiring and we’ve never seen that big of a jump happen. Obviously, these estimates could be revised next month. But, needless to say, we’re pretty confident that there was some pretty strong retail hiring and it says a lot about consumer confidence here in Central Oregon." Deschutes County's rate dropped ½ a percentage point in one month, which he says, "is a huge drop, down to 5.8%; we’re now pretty much in line with the state unemployment rate. That could largely be chalked up to really strong retail hiring, which was much larger than we’d typically expect."
Despite the gains in Deschutes County, other areas didn't fair as well. It was just a year ago that Prineville's Woodgrain millworks began laying off hundreds of workers. And Runberg says Crook County still hasn't recovered. "We’re actually still seeing Crook County continue to shed jobs over the last year, and that’s mostly in the wood product/manufacturing sector. Other than that, if you look at the other industries in Crook County, they’re just really struggling to gain any sort of momentum over there. Crook County was the only rural county in Oregon to post job losses over the last year." However, Crook County’s jobless rate still dropped .3% in November, to 8.3% - its lowest rate in nearly eight years. Jefferson County remained relatively unchanged at 7.6%.
Overall, Runberg is encouraged by the trend, "If you look at the labor force over the last year, it’s actually grown at a pretty good level. Often times, a growing labor force – which is a good thing, especially in the tight labor market like we’re in today – a growing labor force can often put upward pressure on the unemployment rate. So, to see this large of a drop in the unemployment rate despite having gains in the labor force, it’s really impressive."