There are more jobs in Deschutes County then job seekers, forcing employers to raise wages to compete for qualified employees, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Over the past three years, wages have increased an average of 8.3 percent, which means it’s an employee’s market, said Kale Donnelly, East Cascades workforce analyst at the Oregon Employment Department. Professional and business services experienced the highest real wage growth in Deschutes County in the past three years at 24 percent, compared to the information sector at 17.3 percent and construction that experienced a 10.8 percent increase in wages, Donnelly said.

“It’s a tight labor market, a job seeker’s market at the moment,” Donnelly said. “Employers are having to incentivize the job to get a worker to come to them.”

Lindsay Peltier, the Brookswood Animal Clinic practice manager, knows this scenario well. Often when selecting a prospective employee, the clinic is up against another employer willing to offer higher wages or benefits.

“The power resides in the employees,” Peltier said. “If an offer is made, often, the current employer enhances the compensation to keep someone.”

The Amber Meadow Drive clinic has been searching for a while for a veterinary receptionist, a new position at the growing clinic, she said.

“We’re a niche market,” Peltier said. “It’s hard to find the experienced workers in our field.”

The classified ads are heavy with employers seeking qualified applicants. There are four unemployed residents for every online job ad, compared to 13 people for every ad in 2010, according to the data provided by the Oregon Employment Department.

These kinds of numbers are what economists expect to see in a mature phase of a business cycle, Donnelly said. In this market in Oregon, employees who stayed with their current employer have seen their wages rise 10.6 percent, but those who changed jobs, or job hopped, had their wages grow by 14.9 percent, he said.

“People who remained employed with the same employer still saw wage gains,” Donnelly said. “The wage gains are not solely for new hires.”

Donnelly said he didn’t know when the cycle would end, but he did say he expected wages to continue to rise.

“We still have a record number of vacancies unfilled across the state,” he said. “I would not be surprised if real wages, those adjusted for inflation, would continue to rise.”

Stephanie Miller, the chief executive officer for Express Employment Professionals in Bend, said she has way more jobs than workers seeking jobs.

She has experienced the rise in pay rates being offered to prospective applicants.

“It’s rare for those two to be in balance,” Miller said. “Right now, there’s a high demand for employees because the unemployment rate is so low. We’re seeing wages raise 10 to 15 percent because there’s such a demand, and we’re trying to get people into the right fit.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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