▶️ Bend/Redmond jobless rate highest in Oregon; likely to get worse

By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Deschutes County’s unemployment rate last month was the highest of the state’s eight metro areas and the highest in 30 years, according to a report Wednesday from the Oregon Employment Department.

And that might not be the worst of it.

“Despite the dramatic rise in the unemployment rate we likely haven’t reached the peak,” said Damon Runberg, regional economist for the agency. “Expect the unemployment situation to continue to worsen when the May figures are released on June 23rd.”

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for the Bend/Redmond MSA soared to 18.2% in April, up from 4% in March. 

Runberg said he expects the numbers to continue to climb and the county will “easily go into 20% next month.” One in five people will be out of work.

“We’ve wiped out the entire expansion in one month.”
– Damon Runberg, regional economist

“To call it the tip of the iceberg is not a good term,” he said. “We’ve revealed a lot of the iceberg and it’s only going to get bigger from here.”

There were around 17,550 unemployed workers in April, up from only 3,800 in March.

Deschutes County lost 13,260 total nonfarm jobs in April, down 15.4% from March, Runberg said.

To put that in perspective, he said, that’s almost exactly the total number of jobs gained since 2015, the year the county recovered from the 2008 recession.

“We’ve wiped out the entire expansion in one month,” he said.

Every major industry sector lost jobs in April.

The largest losses were posted in leisure and hospitality, which shed nearly 6,800 jobs in April (-51.6%) according to the report.

The report showed sizable losses in education and health services (-1,400 jobs); professional and business services (-870); retail trade (-610); manufacturing (- 550); and other services (-550).

“Monthly employment losses were unprecedented in this series with the share of jobs lost in Central Oregon higher than the state,” Runberg said.

Statewide, more than 400,000 Oregonians have filed unemployment claims since the pandemic took hold on the country in March; 20% of Oregon’s labor force is out of work.

The Oregon Employment Department this week announced it had hired more staff to help immediately shrink a backlog of some 38,000 unemployment benefit claims.

“Right now 91% of all claims filed have been processed and people have gotten paid.  There’s still 9% of people out there who have not gotten their claim processed,” Runberg said. “The good news is that backlog is getting smaller every day. This new initiative by the director is an effort to focus exclusively on that 9% of claims that have yet to be processed.”
Runberg advises anyone applying for unemployment to file online. He says wait times for people who call the employment department are averaging three hours.

In Crook County, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 18.6% in April, up from 5.7% in March.

Runberg said the April 2020 rate is not the highest in the series for Crook County; that happened shortly after the recession in 2009 when the number peaked at 21.7%

In Jefferson County, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 14.3% in April, up from 5.4% in March.

Jefferson County’s rate was notably lower than either Deschutes or Crook counties and more consistent with what we saw nationally (14.4%), according to the report.

The number of unemployed workers rose to 1,409, up from 532 in March. Job losses in Jefferson County businesses were more consistent with the rest of Central Oregon with employment down 13% from March (-840 jobs).

As with most counties, the largest losses were in leisure and hospitality (-240 jobs).

Runberg said there were also notable losses in local government, largely concentrated in Indian tribal, as well as manufacturing

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