Crook County may have one of the highest unemployment rates in Oregon, but those who earn an income make more on average than most the state’s other counties.
>Among all 36 counties the local weekly wage ranked fourth in the Fourth Quarter 2012
A recent report compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics revealed that Crook County ranks fourth in weekly wage among all 36 counties for Fourth Quarter 2012, and second out of the 31 counties with fewer than 75,000 residents.
Washington County tops the state at an average of $1,101 per week, while Multnomah County averages $988, Benton County $918, and Crook County $908. All four counties exceed the state average wage of $871 per week, but three of them fall short of the $1,000-per-week national average.
Crook County Economic Development Manager Russ Deboodt attributes the higher wages to a resurgence among local employers such as Woodgrain that has boosted job availability.
“I think any time you have an increase in job openings, the wages tend to go up because you (businesses) are fighting to get quality employees to come to your job,” he said. “It’s typical supply and demand. When supply is greater and demand is lower, then you don’t have to pay your employees as much. When the opposite occurs, then you are vying for a limited resource and therefore employers might be paying their employees more.”
Damon Runberg, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department considers the wage ranking a positive for Crook County. However, he cautions that the number may not represent what the average Crook County worker truly earns.
“If you think about where the numbers derive from, there are two factors in there,” he said. “There is total wages and then there is number of workers. You pretty much divide the total (wages) by the number of workers and get your average.”
Runberg pointed out that this method does not account for the companies that offer very high-paying jobs, which makes the average look better than it truly is.
“Benton and Crook (counties) have some similarities that people would never expect, and the big one is they both have smaller populations, but some influential companies who have high wages,” he said. “A median wage is usually the one that is a better indicator, because it accounts for some of the disparity with the really high-paying companies.”
Nevertheless, Runberg feels that the ranking reveals a different positive development for Crook County — one that bodes well for times ahead.
“Even though you wouldn’t necessarily use the average weekly wage as an indicator for what the average person’s wage really is, it is a really useful number in saying the amount of wages coming into the county,” he said. “Obviously, the more dollars that people are bringing into the county, the better it is for the economy.”