Regional jobless rates dropped ‘significantly’ in July; move closer to full recovery

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Unemployment levels dropped significantly across the region in July and Deschutes County has moved closer to a “full employment recovery,” according to Oregon Employment Department.

Damon Runberg, the regional economist for the OED, said Deschutes County employment last month was down just 4% from the pre-COVID peak in February 2020.

In Central Oregon monthly hiring was consistent with normal seasonal patterns; however, recent revisions using payroll tax records revealed that the recovery through the first quarter of 2021 was stronger than initially estimated.

Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond MSA):

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% in July from 5.9% in June.

The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts from COVID-19 in February 2020 when it was 3.3%. Deschutes County lost 530 jobs in July, typical losses for this time of year, Runberg said.

Recent revisions revealed that employment gains in the first quarter of 2021 were stronger than initially estimated with employment levels through March revised up by nearly 1,000 jobs.

Job losses in July were driven by local education declines as schools largely closed for summer break.

Most other major industry sectors continued to hire in July, including leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; and construction, he said.

This news might sound far-fetched to many who see “help wanted” signs in front of seemingly every business in town.

Runberg said the leisure and hospitality industries are still struggling – and are down about 18% from levels in July 2019.

“However, there are many industries that currently have higher employment levels than the summer before COVID,” he said. “In particular, most government sectors, financial activities, construction, and transportation. Quite a few large industries are fairly consistent with those July 2019 levels (health care, retail).”

Runberg said it’s also important to note that leisure and hospitality only represent 14% of all jobs.

“It is a highly visible industry, but those struggles are not pulling down total employment levels as much as one may think,” he said.

Crook County:

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.0% in July, down significantly from 7.4% in June.

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

Crook County shed 50 jobs in July, typical job losses for this time of year, Runberg said.

Seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment in July was roughly 1.5% (+100 jobs) above the pre-COVID peak in February 2020.

Monthly job losses were concentrated in local government education as schools closed for the summer. These losses are normal for this time of year.

There were strong monthly gains in leisure and hospitality and construction, both exceeding normal seasonal expectations (+30 jobs).

Jefferson County:

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.5% in July, down from 6.8% in June.

The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts from COVID-19 in February 2020 when it was 4.1%, Runberg said.

Total nonfarm employment fell by 100 jobs in July, fewer losses than typical for this time of year.

Recent revisions revealed that the recovery has been slower than initially estimated.

As of July employment levels remain down around 3.5% (-240 jobs) from the pre-COVID peak in February 2020.

Monthly job losses were concentrated in local government education as schools closed for summer break.

There was modest hiring in leisure and hospitality, adding 30 jobs from June.

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