Unemployment rate remains at 3.5 percent in Yamhill County
Oregon's unemployment rate in June was down by 0.1 percent to 4.0 percent, the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1976. However, the state's unemployment rate does not always reflect what's happening in Yamhill County, which saw its rate remained unchanged at 3.5 percent, the same as the month before.
Yamhill County experienced a decrease of 430 non-farm jobs in June, lower than the projected 530-job loss for the month. Over the year the county's non-farm employment did a little better than the state overall at 940 jobs, reflecting a 2.8 percent increase compared to Oregon's employment increase at 1.8 percent. Non-farm is classified as goods, construction and manufacturing companies which does not include farm workers, private household employees, or nonprofit organization employees.
The bulk of the job growth for Yamhill County in June was in manufacturing with 80 new hires, including at Newberg-area firms A-dec Inc., Harris Thermal, Harco Manufacturing Inc., M&W Fiberglass, DCI and Newberg Steel.
"Our fabrication area is very, very busy and we don't manufacture one specific item, but we fabricate things out of steel that are the underpinnings of new construction," Newberg Steel co-owner Jackie Lane said. "There are more things that we could bid on that we don't bid on because we can't handle the workload. We are able to choose right now in this economy which jobs that we want to bid on and what work we would prefer to do that most closely matches that skill set."
Dental manufacturing giant A-dec Inc. reported a similar uptick in business.
"A-dec has enjoyed several years of positive growth, with 2017 the strongest on record," Scott Parrish, CEO and president, said. "As a result of this growth, we have hired about 200 new employees over the past few years. It is increasingly a challenge to find skilled workers. We are focused on investing in workforce development and training."
The inability to find skilled workers appears to be a trend in the manufacturing sector. High schools transitioning from vocational to computer skills now means there are jobs that go unfilled for want of skilled laborers. To combat that problem, Newberg Steel offers a fellowship to local high school students to encourage young people to go into welding.
"Right now, we are okay, we just hired someone yesterday," Lane said. "A few months ago it was difficult to find people. … There are a lot (of people) that are heading toward retirement and not a lot of young people to fill the space or go into a career in the welding trade."
The state report also showed growth in the county's leisure and hospitality industry, which added 40 new hires in June, although officials said the numbers can be deceiving because the industry is seasonal and typically sees an uptick in hiring in the spring and summer.
"When the summer months hit it is usually very busy especially because there are more events in town and more people come out," Ben Ragsdale, manager of Best Western Newberg, said. "Our night auditor said that last weekend the standard hotels were fully booked from Seattle down to Eugene …. In the winter time, we remain about half occupancy."
Ragsdale explained that while some positions are easy to fill, others are not. The motel typically hires George Fox University students to man the front desk, but finding housekeepers has proven difficult.
The state report indicated growth in professional and business services with an increase of 30 positions, while the automobile and auto parts industry saw 20 new hires.
"We had about a 10 percent increase in the last month," said Steve Abell, manager of Newberg Dodge. "We've been looking for people to hire for several months now and it is difficult to find people for key positions, service technicians, specifically. Technicians require skills specific to our brand and we have a lot more people retiring than young people coming in to replace them."
Local auto parts stores are having similar problems finding qualified employees.
"We are seeing growth, but we are trying to hire enough people to keep the store open is the problem," Rick Carlson, Newberg NAPA store manager said. "I am willing to train, but a lot of people don't want to try."
All in all, there is growth in Newberg and there are jobs, but the difficulty is finding people to fill the positions.