BEND, OR -- Deschutes County job growth slowed substantially, last month, although unemployment was little changed. Regional Economist Damon Runberg tells KBND News, "Our rate of growth in our employment base dropped to 1.5%, year over year. We haven’t been below 2% in many, many, many years. The last time we had rates of growth this slow was back in September of 2012. In fact, I think one of the more telling signs of the slowdown is actually, our rate of growth in Deschutes County is, today, slower than the statewide growth rate, which also hasn’t happened since 2012."
He believes there are two big contributing factors, "Tourism, which had been one of our sustained growth sectors – I mean, it’s sort of just been chugging along, growing for many years. Tourism has pretty much flattened out. As busy and crazy as it seems when you’re driving around Bend or Redmond or any part of Central Oregon today, it is not any higher, as far as employment, than it was this time last year." And, the second is job losses in Professional & Business Services. Runberg says the sector hasn't seen major layoffs, but temp agencies are hiring fewer people than a year ago, which is a significant economic indicator.
Runberg has said for a couple of years, now, that the region couldn't sustain the immense growth it's seen, "At this point, what’s happened is our growth rate is really normalized, or equalized, with the growth rate of our population. I feel pretty confident in saying at least the rest of 2019 and even going into 2020 that it’s likely that we just sort of level off with growth rates in our employment base sort of meeting the demand of a larger population."
Deschutes County added 450 jobs last month; typical for this time of year. Jefferson County added 50, which is fewer than expected. Crook County is bucking the trend with accelorated job growth, which Runberg attributes to more data center development. Crook County added 210 jobs in June - more than expected.
Jobless rates in all three local counties dropped a tenth of a point from May to June. Deschutes County’s rate was 4.2%, last month; Jefferson County came in at 5.5% and Crook County was 5.7% in June.