A bright economic forecast into 2020 for Curry and Coos counties is emerging from the Oregon Employment Department.
The region’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate in October was 6.2%, continuing the historic low levels of the past several months. The employment department listed 8,536 employed Curry County workers in October and 411 unemployed.
Department economist Sarah Cunningham said the jobless report is a key indicator of what's ahead.
The Pilot: Specifically, what are the “key indicators” the Oregon Employment Department uses to develop the Curry/Coos regional data about jobs and employment.
Sarah Cunningham: We use the monthly Local Area Unemployment Statistics, which provide an estimate of the unemployment rate, and the Current Employment Statistics, which estimate how many jobs are being added in each industry in a region. The (local statistics) are derived from a household survey that asks whether or not someone has a job; and if not, if they want a job. If a person doesn’t have a job but wants one, and has actively looked for work in the past month, he or she is counted as unemployed. The (current employment) data are derived from a monthly survey of businesses covered by unemployment insurance.
The Pilot: Overall, what have been the economic strengths and the economic weaknesses of the Curry/Coos economies to this point through 2019, and what has caused those strengths and weaknesses?
Cunningham: Coos and Curry counties have both experienced modest job growth so far in 2019, which is concurrent with slowing job growth statewide. Both the south coast and the state as a whole have experienced slowdowns in job growth in the 10th year of the current economic expansion. The job market remains extremely tight, and many job openings in the south coast and the state as a whole go unfilled.
Curry County has seen strong growth in its manufacturing sector, growing by 5.9% from October 2018 to October 2019. This compares with just 1.1% growth in manufacturing employment in the state as a whole.
Coos County has seen strong growth in construction, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and retail trade, all adding jobs faster than the state from October 2018 to October 2019. Gains in leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and construction are reflective of the strong economy as a whole. When people have more money in their pockets, they shop, go on vacation, or even renovate their homes.
The Pilot: Heading into 2020, what is the Oregon Employment Department's forecast for the Curry/Coos region?
Cunningham: With unemployment rates still hovering near their historic lows in both Coos and Curry counties, and modest job growth in 2019, I predict the trend will continue into 2020.
The Pilot: What economic “triggers” would you be watching that would help improve the local economies?
Cunningham: I pay attention to the “Around the State” business news, which provides a snapshot of business openings, closures and expansions throughout Oregon. It’s one way I gauge economic activity that may show up in the data in months to come. For example, if a hospital in Curry County receives funding to expand its services, I would expect to see job increases in healthcare employment in the future.
Overall, economic growth along the south coast has slowed down, but remains positive. The tight labor market poses a challenge for employers looking to hire, but provides opportunity to those looking for work.
Follow the county and state unemployment reports online at currypilot.com and in the Tuesday and Friday print editions of The Curry Coastal Pilot.