Unemployment rates for Oregon remained steady at 8.1 percent in August, with Curry County unemployment rates staying among the highest in the state at 10.7 percent, according to new statistics released by the Oregon Employment Department.
While unemployment declined in most counties, rural counties in Southwest Oregon and across Eastern Oregon continue to show high unemployment, especially when compared to the population centers in the Willamette Valley.
Guy Tauer, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department, said that the economic recovery has been slow to come to Curry County, as it has to many rural counties in Oregon.
“There has been less population growth in Curry County,” Tauer said, “The job growth is in the metropolitan areas.”
Tauer said the recession has slowed the region’s population growth, which has slowed growth in the job market.
“If you don’t have population growth, businesses aren’t going to expand services,” Tauer said.
The region’s payroll grew by 20 jobs in August, and is up 40 jobs over the year. There have been gains in mining and logging, construction, wood-products manufacturing and educational and health services. Job declines continue to occur in local government, retail, financial activities and leisure and hospitality.
While the worst part of the recession is over, the recovery has been slow and employment has still not returned to its pre-recession levels.
“Before the recession, we really did see a boom in Southwest Oregon. We saw a boom with more in-migration and construction and growth,” Tauer said.
In-migration, especially from retirees from California, slowed with the recession, with many people unable to sell their houses to make the move north to retire.
However, Tauer expects this trend to reverse itself eventually, and when the economy improves throughout the rest of the Western U.S. and the rest of the nation, it will also begin to improve locally.
“We have a huge cohort of baby boomers and they are going to be retiring,” Tauer said. “Once the economy improves you will see an improvement and that in-migration from California will continue.”
Besides the overall decline in the number of jobs in the county, there has also been a decline in the number of tourism jobs in Curry County. Tauer attributes this to the lack of investment in tourism infrastructure in the county, compared to that made in Coos and Jackson counties.
But with the worst of the recession over, employment appears to be improving slowly in Curry County, albeit slowly.
“Looking at rate trends in smaller counties, we’ve seen slight improvements over the year,” Tauer said. “We’re off the recessionary peaks, but we’re still off from the boom years before the recession.”