BEND, OR -- Central Oregon jobless numbers showed little movement, in January. Deschutes County unemployment ticked up .2%, to 4.6%; Crook County bumped up .1% to 6.6% and Jefferson County dropped a tenth of a point to 6%.
Regional economist Damon Runberg tells KBND News the numbers are a little surprising, given recent weather. "I think there was an idea or thought that the winter weather we saw would really lead to increases in the unemployment rate or a slowdown in job growth compared to what we see seasonably, with the inability for construction workers to be out working on buildings, or folks not even able to get into job sites, etc. And really, we saw Central Oregon stay pat with what we’d expect." While there weren’t any big layoffs, Runberg says it’s likely the region followed the statewide trend, which showed a reduction in the number of hours worked in January.
He says the current trend could lead to higher wages for seasonal employees, this summer. "Last year, there was a lot of difficulty filling those lower-wage jobs for businesses. With unemployment rates at relatively historically low rates in Central Oregon, I think it’s going to be another year of challenges for businesses to fill those kind of seasonal jobs." He says companies will soon start hiring for tourism-related jobs. "We have a huge ramp-up that occurs, usually starting in March we’ll start seeing job postings start showing up. Then, there will be job fairs all the way up through May, maybe into June. People are trying to fill a lot of these Leisure & Hospitality jobs but also they’re going to see a lot of continued growth in Construction."