BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s historic jobless rates may have finally hit bottom. "Unemployment went up in Deschutes County, which is the first time we’ve seen that in a very long time. It was a .4% jump, which to us is definitely a statistically significant increase so this is more than just noise in the data we’re seeing," Regional Economist Damon Runberg tells KBND News. It's the first significant jump for the county in more than eight years.
"The rate in June, seasonally adjusted, was 3.9%, and that is still very, very low. So, even though we saw a statistically significant increase, that doesn’t mean we’re back to the days of any sort of elevated unemployment rate, or anything like that. So, that’s the positive," says Runberg. "Why it jumped? We know that in June, the hiring that we saw – the seasonal hiring – was less than we would typically expect to see." Despite that, Deschutes County still added 750 jobs in June, and the county is growing at a faster pace than anywhere else in Oregon. Runberg says the lower hiring numbers could partly be because businesses are pulling help-wanted signs after finding it too difficult to fill an opening when fewer people are looking for work.
In Crook and Jefferson Counties, it’s a slightly different story. Rates remained unchanged, last month. Runberg says, "They’ve just been chugging along following the seasonal trends. Employment levels are up a little bit from this past year; unemployment rates are pretty low for them, relative to what they see historically. But, ultimately, they never saw the levels of growth Deschutes County did. And, they’re kind of on a different trajectory than Deschutes County as a whole and are kind of more representative of the average rural community in Oregon." He adds, "They’re actually seeing somewhat stronger growth compared to the average rural communities. It’s important to remember we shouldn’t be comparing Crook and Jefferson counties to Deschutes County or the Portland Metro area. We need to be comparing those rural communities to other rural communities across the state. And, if we do that, things are looking actually pretty good there." Crook Counties jobless rate remained at 5.5% in June; Jefferson County's rate held at 4.9%.