Recovery slowed in April after several months of hot hiring

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Preliminary estimates for April reveal the pace of recovery slowed dramatically for much of Central Oregon after several months of hot hiring, according to a report from the Oregon Department of Employment.

Regional Economist Damon Runberg said both Deschutes and Jefferson counties posted job gains largely consistent with the normal seasonal pattern.

However, Crook County posted strong enough gains to push total nonfarm employment above the pre-COVID peak in February 2020.

Runberg’s full report is below:

Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond MSA)

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was little changed at 6.3% in April compared with 6.4% in March.

The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts from COVID-19 in February 2020 when it was 3.3%.

After several months of very strong hiring, preliminary estimates reveal that the employment recovery stalled in April with hiring largely in line with seasonal trends (+740 jobs).

Employment levels in April 2021 remained down around 4% (-3,600 jobs) from the pre-COVID peak in February 2020.

The year-over-year change is now capturing the large losses from the initial lockdown this time last year with total nonfarm employment up 12,120 jobs from April 2020.

These year-over-year changes are no longer a reflection of the employment situation before the onset of COVID-19.

To gauge where non-seasonally adjusted industry employment sits compared with the pre-COVID peak we can go back one additional year and compare the most recent estimates to the same month in 2019.

Several industries had employment levels that remained lower in April 2021 than in April 2019, including leisure and hospitality (-1,590 jobs); professional and business services (-500); local government education (-490); and manufacturing (-230).

Meanwhile, a few industries posted employment levels notably higher than April 2019, including private education and health services (+720 jobs); retail trade (+410); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+260); and construction (+240).

Crook County

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.6% in April, up slightly from 7.4% in March.

The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts from COVID-19 in February 2020 when it was 4.4%.

Preliminary estimates reveal that employment levels rose sharply in April, up 150 jobs (+2.2%) on a seasonally adjusted basis.

These monthly gains were enough to push employment in Crook County above the pre-COVID peak in February 2020. The strong hiring in April was largely concentrated in hard hit industries that continued to rehire from earlier layoffs. Leisure and hospitality added 220 jobs in April; professional and business services added 150 jobs; and construction added 100 jobs.

Jefferson County

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped slightly to 7.0% in April, down from 7.2% in March.

The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts from COVID19 in February 2020 when it was 4.1%.

Hiring stalled in Jefferson County with businesses only adding 120 jobs in April 2021, slightly less than the typical seasonal gain of 160 jobs. Despite these slower gains in April total nonfarm employment is fast approaching pre-COVID levels, down only 50 jobs (-0.7%) from February 2020.

The weak seasonal hiring in April was largely due to a loss of 40 jobs in the manufacturing sector. Most other industries posted modest gains in April.

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