▶️ Dropped unemployment benefits may not help fill Deschutes Co. jobs

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Roughly 2,400 people in Deschutes County lost all or part of their federal unemployment benefits over the weekend, but it may not be the beacon of hope some employers are looking for. 

“I don’t know if this is going to help much. It doesn’t feel like it,” said Pine Tavern Restaurant General Manager Anthony Avraam.

It’s no secret…restaurants have been the first on the pandemic employment chopping block. 

“We haven’t done lunches for a few weeks now,” Avraam said. “That’s difficult for a restaurant during these busy days of summer, and August and early September, to be forced to close because you don’t have enough staff to open.” 

Nearby states like Idaho pulled unemployment benefits sooner, and the results don’t look promising.  

“Employment shifts were not much different between the states that pulled the benefits versus those that kept them,” Regional Economist Damon Runberg said. “We didn’t see faster job growth in Idaho for instance because they pulled the benefits.” 

The problem isn’t supply, it’s demand. 

“When we actually look at the ratio of the number of unemployed people per job ad, the ratio is one to one,” Runberg said. “There’s one unemployed person for every job ad out there. We’ve never seen it this low in Central Oregon’s history before.” 

So…where did the workers go? 

“They’ve gone on to other industries that offer more competitive wages, better working conditions, more stability, less seasonality,” Runberg said.

Employment-wise, the rest of the Deschutes County workforce is almost completely recovered from the pandemic. 

“Deschutes County is probably only one to two percent shy of being completely recovered from the pandemic from an employment perspective, so we’re like this close to being fully recovered,” he added.

The leisure and hospitality sector has a little further to fly. 

“We’re planning on being a really small restaurant with limited hours and limited bodies maybe until spring of next year, when hopefully things start to improve,” Avraam said.

He feels this year has been more difficult than last year in terms of running a business.

“We’ve been allowed to open and we’ve had this incredible amount of business, but we haven’t been able to keep up because to he lack of staff and that really hurts us,” he said.

“Whereas last year, we were forced to shut down, we were forced to send people home, we were limited by the governor as to how much business we could do.

“This year, they said ‘go, have at it’, and we can’t do it.” 

The Deschutes County numbers add to the roughly 81,000 Oregonians who lost benefits over the weekend. 

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