Strong job growth and a decline in local unemployment in Crook County
Crook and Jefferson counties saw upward revisions to employment levels at the end of 2021.
Recent revisions to the employment situation revealed that job growth had been slower at the end of 2021 than initially estimated for Deschutes County. Although employment was revised down, the county remains in an expansion with total nonfarm employment above pre-pandemic peaks.
Strong job growth led to continued declines in local area unemployment rates in April.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.0% in April, down from a revised rate of 5.2% in March. The unemployment rate is fast approaching the record low set before the pandemic in April 2020, when it was 4.4%.
Crook County added 120 jobs in April, with typical gains for this time of year. Employment levels in Crook County are up 11% from pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (+760 jobs).
Recent revisions revealed that the recovery and expansion from the COVID-19 pandemic has been stronger than initially estimated. Not only did Crook County recover from the pandemic losses, but total nonfarm employment is now higher than its previous peak in 2007.
The county added 500 jobs in the last year (+7.4%). Job gains continue to be dominated by information and construction, each adding 140 jobs over the past year. There was also a notable gain of 80 jobs in professional and business services. Most of this growth is associated with the data centers in Prineville. The only losses were a modest decline of 20 jobs in private education and health services and 10 jobs in federal agencies.
Although employers continue to report a large amount of job vacancies to fill, Damon Runberg, Regional Economist who serves the East Cascades for the Oregon Employment Department, offered some insight into this phenomenon.
"We have a tremendous amount of openings for a variety of reasons," Runberg elaborated. "First, Crook County is in an expansion as the total employment base has blown past the pre-pandemic levels. Much of this is centered around continued expansion at the data centers. The local labor force has not expanded at the same pace of these jobs being created leaving a shortage of workers to fill many of them. Second, demand for goods and services was elevated during much of 2021 due to excess savings. Many of us were unable to spend money early in the pandemic and most Americans had extra cash in their pockets from stimulus, which led to a rapid increase in savings."
He went on to say that when folks started spending this money, it resulted in a massive increase in the demand for many goods and services. The demand was so high that many businesses were unable to keep up at previous employment levels and were forced to hire additional workers to meet the need.
When looking at leisure and hospitality, the numbers have remained stagnant. Manufacturing also remained unchanged from April 2021 to April 2022. Trade, transportation, and utilities added a modest 10 jobs.
"Leisure and hospitality has fully recovered from the pandemic losses in Crook County," added Runberg. "The growth has slowed dramatically since they recovered towards the end of last year. Leisure and hospitality employment tracks closely with population size. Bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels then growing slowly (as we are seeing now) is consistent with what I would have expected."
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.8% in April, down from 4.9% in March. The unemployment rate is fast approaching levels in April 2020 when it was 4.1% before the first impacts from COVID-19.
Total nonfarm employment rose by 150 jobs in April, a normal pace of hiring for this time of year. Recent revisions using payroll tax records revealed that hiring was stronger than initially estimated. Employment levels in Jefferson County remain down 40 jobs (-0.5%) from levels just before the onset of the pandemic in February 2020.
Jefferson County added 170 jobs over the past year (+2.6%). Job gains were concentrated in leisure and hospitality (+90 jobs) and wood product manufacturing (+50 jobs). Job losses over the past year were limited to just private education and health services and transportation, warehousing, and utilities, each sector declining by a modest 20 jobs.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.5% in April, down from 3.6% in March. The difference between today's unemployment rate and the record low level of 3.3% before the onset of the pandemic is not statistically significant.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Deschutes County added 810 jobs in April, typical gains for this time of year. Recent revisions using payroll tax records showed that hiring at the end of 2021 was slower than initially estimated. Despite this downward revision employment estimates for April 2022 exceeded February 2020 levels before the onset of the pandemic by 740 jobs (+1%).
Deschutes County's total nonfarm employment expanded by 2.3% (+2,020 jobs) from April 2021. The largest share of these gains remains in the leisure and hospitality sector, adding 1,210 jobs in the past year (+10.3%) as the industry bounces back from COVID-19 impacts. The only other industry to post large job gains over the past year was manufacturing, with a gain of 400 jobs (+7.2%). A few sectors began posting job losses, including both federal and state government agencies (-5.2%); retail trade (-2.8%); and information (-2.3%).
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