BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s hospitality sector continues to struggle to fill job openings, and near-record-low unemployment and rising inflation could impact Central Oregon’s summer tourist season. Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Damon Runberg says we’ve entered what’s called a wage-price spiral, "As inflation rises, we see workers request higher wages to help compensate for their own inflation that they’re paying. So, businesses will offer those higher wages, and then they have to pass those higher wages on to the consumers of those products and you get sort of a spiral that exists." He says there’s no good answer to break the cycle.
Runberg tells KBND News seasonal hiring for summer typically peaks in March, "Here in Central Oregon, there were over 3100 job ads in March, which is a 12% year-over-year increase from what it was last March. And, here’s the crazy number: That’s an 85% increase in job ads compared to what it was in March 2019. So, we’re talking about levels of hiring demand in anticipation of the summer season far in excess of anything we’ve seen here locally, in Central Oregon." But, what if all those visitors don’t materialize? Runberg says, "Even the industry associations associated with hoteliers are anticipating a pretty sizable decline in hotel visits this summer across the nation, so we’ll see. In theory, inflation and the savings being depleted should lead to a slightly less busy summer season for hotel destinations." Runberg says it could be a good thing, helping even out the supply and demand of the workforce.