Unemployment Benefits (copy)

A hiring sign is displayed in Downers Grove, Illinois, on June 24.

Deschutes County’s economy has recovered from the pandemic-related nosedive, driven mostly by a surge in hiring in the leisure and hospitality industry, according to the monthly jobs report.

The leisure and hospitality industry took a leap forward adding 1,410 jobs last month over October 2020, but that’s after losing slightly more than half due to COVID-19 related shutdowns, said Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist.

“We’re really good at recovering in Deschutes County,” Runberg said. “Historically we’ve been hit hard by recessions, but jump back quickly. This is unprecedented. It was less than two years.”

At this time of year, normally Deschutes County posts job losses, but last month the county actually added 60 jobs, according to the most recent state Employment Department report for Central Oregon.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped in October to 4.9% from 5.2% in September in Deschutes County. That rate, however, is still higher than before February 2020 when the county experienced a record low rate of 3.3%, according to the employment data.

“There was strong hiring across Central Oregon in October with job gains exceeding seasonal expectations and unemployment levels dropping significantly for all three counties, Runberg said.

The job gains were likely the result of higher wages, and quick hiring decisions, which have become the norm, said Chris Petty, franchise manager at Express Employment. Employers today have to raise salaries in order to even entice applicants to apply, especially in the entry-level jobs, Petty said.

“In my experience I’ve never seen so many changes so quickly,” Petty said. “There’s always changes and adaptations in employment. The one we’re in now is inevitable, but I wouldn’t think that would hit all at once. If we had not had the pandemic, it might have been a slower change.”

The pandemic also caused a flood of retirements among baby boomers, who often knew a variety of aspects of the job, Petty said. Now that same position is held by three people who perform specific aspects of a position, he said. The companies able to fill vacancies are the ones that are willing to train people looking to move up in their profession, he said.

“The older generation wore many hats, and today there are people with one skill,” Petty said.

Runberg said based on payroll records, Central Oregon experienced a stronger job market through June than previously believed.

In Crook County, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% in October, compared to 6.6% in September. Prior to COVID-19 related closures in March 2020, the unemployment rate in Crook was 4.4%.

Much of the jobs strength came from employment supporting the data centers in Prineville, Runberg said in his prepared statement. In Crook County, 140 construction jobs were added in October compared to October 2020. Professional and business services and information industries also saw gains, according to the monthly report.

In Jefferson County, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.8% in October, down from 6.2% in September. Prior to the economic impacts related to the pandemic, the unemployment rate in Jefferson County was 4.1%.

Nonfarm jobs grew by 70 in October, and over the past year strong gains were seen in government, retail and leisure and hospitality industries.

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

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