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Crook County Reports Strongest Economic Rebound in OR

BEND, OR -- Job growth in Central Oregon remains strong. Regional Economist Damon Runberg says Deschutes County’s unemployment rate dropped .1%  in April to 3.5%. "For some context there, the lowest we’ve ever had on record is 3.3%; that was before the pandemic. And our margin for error is such that I can’t say that there’s a statistical difference between what our unemployment rate is today and the record low," Runberg tells KBND News, "So, for all intents and purposes, we’re there; the lowest it’s ever been. It’s really tough sledding if you’re a business looking to hire workers, and it’s a great time to be a worker looking for a job."

Jefferson County’s jobless rate also dropped .1%, landing at 4.8% in April. Crook County’s rate fell .2% to 5%. But, with Crook County adding 500 jobs last year, Runberg says the big news isn’t the number of unemployed but of the employed, "The expansion that we’ve seen in Crook County’s economy is far in excess of any other county in the state. Employment levels - and this is not a type-o: Employment levels in Crook County are 11% above what they were before the pandemic; by far the biggest expansion trend that we’ve seen. And that has almost everything to do with growth revolving around the data centers in Prineville."

Runberg doesn’t expect recent layoffs at St. Charles to show up until June’s jobless report, and he doesn’t think it will have a large economic impact, "It’s not necessarily a reflection of what we’re seeing in the economy more broadly. This is a very specific industry impact that is happening to many hospitals across the nation right now." He says those workers won’t be without a job for long, given the number of healthcare jobs available outside of a hospital setting. 

In fact, the Oregon Employment Department will host a healthcare job fair to help those former St. Charles employees find new work. That event is June 2 at Worksource Oregon’s Bend office on Forbes Road, from 1 to 4 pm. The public is invited but the primary focus is to connect laid-off workers with new opportunities in the healthcare industry.

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