Recent news that Oregon’s average unemployment rate in December had fallen below 9 percent pointed to a modest recovery in the state, but a look at county-by-county numbers shows some rural counties are suffering more than their urban counterparts.
In Crook County, recent statistics show December’s rate was above 15 percent. According to the Oregon Employment Department, 22 counties were above the state’s 8.9 percent rate.
The news was better, however, in some parts of the state. Benton County led the state with the lowest rate of unemployment at 6 percent.
Employment analysts also looked at broad regions of the state and found that employment declined in five out of six Oregon regions. In contrast, the Portland metro area had 1.8 percent growth.
State employment economist Nick Beleiciks explained why some areas of Oregon experienced growth while other areas did not: “Most of the jobs that recovered were in Portland and the Columbia Gorge areas,” he said. As for the rural areas of Oregon, Beleiciks points to the down real estate market and the resulting effect on the lumber products market. “In order for jobs to be added back, (the) lumber products (market) needs to recover,” he explained.
As Kristian Foden-Vencil reported earlier this month, an 8.9 percent unemployment rate is still high. During the prosperous year of 2006, Oregon’s rate was about six percent.
Map courtesy of Rick Thomas and Arashi Young