BEND, OR -- Unemployment across the tri-county area held relatively steady in March. Deschutes County’s jobless rate bumped up a tenth of a point last month, to 4.7%. Jefferson County rose two-tenths of a point, landing at 6.2%; Crook County also ticked up two-tenths of a point, to 6.5%.
Regional Economist Damon Runberg calls the slight uptick “statistically insignificant" and says numbers are rebounding from last year's historic lows, "We reached historically low rates of unemployment, they kicked up ever so slightly, and they’ve sort of been stable there; so we are still at very low rates of unemployment." He tells KBND News, "The fact that we’ve sort of slowed down into this 3% realm, year over year, for our job growth, it sort of feels anticlimactic. It’s like, we’re so used to the craziness, that when it just sort of settles into a nice steady level of growth, we almost think of it as a negative thing." But, he says, this current rate of growth is much more sustainable over the long term.
Deschutes County’s added 260 jobs in March, and 2,440 jobs In the past year. Runberg says the largest gains were in the Accommodations and Food Services industry, at nearly 9%, "Most of that is still just the fact that we’re having these new hotels that have been built, staffing up. So, it’s sort of looking like the industry is growing like gang-busters. And, it is. But it’s not from existing firms; it’s from new firms." The second fastest growing industry in Deschutes County bucks a national trend, "Manufacturing has done really, really well over the last year; in Deschutes County it’s up over 6%. And that’s an uncommon trend, nationally, I’ll say that," says Runberg, "We’ve had a sustained run of our manufacturing sector, across Central Oregon. [It’s] just continuing to add job, and do well and lots of different types of manufacturing jobs have been added; not our traditional wood products."