BEND, OR -- Newly revised numbers from the Oregon Employment Department reveal big changes in the High Desert. "The most notable ones, I think, were Deschutes County – by far – where the pace of growth dropped significantly," says Regional Economist Damon Runberg. The other is Crook County, which showed a much more positive shift.
In Deschutes County, Runberg says, "We’re now expanding, year-over-year, at about 2.6%. We were closer to 4%, before these revisions." He tells KBND News, "We haven’t seen a rate of growth this low, since 2012. Most economies growing at 2.6%, that’s good for them. But, for us, like I said, we haven’t done that in over six years." Runberg isn't surprised by the shift and points out the county is still growing, just at a slower rate, "We knew for over a year now, that 2019 was going to be a slower growth year. We knew that a lot of the energy that was behind the expansion was sort of running out, the labor supply was still tight, but the demand for labor, as far as help wanted ads, was starting to decrease from those historic peaks that we saw a few years back.
On the other end of the spectrum, Crook County job growth in the first quarter was much higher than previously estimated. At 3.5%, it’s the third fastest growing county in the state. "A lot of it has to do with sort of the ripple effect from the data centers (pictured)," says Runberg, "We saw a big uptick in Construction, as well as Professional & Business Services. Professional & Business Services out there, most of the growth we’ve seen are sort of support businesses for these data centers." But, Runberg says Construction-sector jobs are likely not reflective of reality because many data center construction jobs are filled by subcontractors based out of the area. Because employment and growth stats are calculated based on payroll data, those jobs are counted in the counties where the companies are based. "Even with this growth that we’ve seen and these revisions upward in Crook County’s employment numbers, we’re still undercounting the total employment impact, out there, in Crook County, right now."
Deschutes County added 970 jobs in April; 50 shy of seasonal expectations. Unemployment held steady at 4.4%; essentially unchanged from the 4.5% rate in March. Crook County added 110 jobs, which was stronger than expected. April unemployment was 6%, compared with 6.1% in March. And, in Jefferson County, the jobless rate was unchanged at 5.8%. The county added 120 jobs in April, which is a slightly slower pace than expected.