Central Oregon boom is almost exclusive to Deschutes

Economic data show Crook, Jefferson counties struggling

By Taylor W. Anderson / The Bulletin / @taylorwanderson

After years of slogging back from a stubborn recession in Central Oregon, Crook County looks poised to have lost more jobs in 2014 than it gained.

Continuing a trend that’s seen across rural Oregon, Crook and Jefferson counties struggled to add private sector jobs through 11 months this year.

While Bend led the state’s rebounding economy in 2014, Crook County may shed nearly 100 jobs by year’s end after data from the state’s Employment Department released this week show the county fizzled toward the end of the year.

“Once recent layoffs are accounted for in the December figures, Crook County will finish the year with fewer jobs than where it started,” Central Oregon economist Damon Runberg wrote in his monthly report.

The state added nearly 44,000 jobs at a rate of 2.6 percent, the data show. The Bend area added nearly 3,000 jobs in the last year, a 4.4 percent rate. The wages for jobs in Bend are also growing faster than the state average.

Crook County, which has a total of about 5,600 non-farm jobs, added just 100 jobs from November 2013 through last month. Its unemployment rate remains above 10.2 percent.

The new report didn’t account for the more than 200 layoffs at Woodgrain Millwork in Prineville announced in late November. Woodgrain officials said they’d shutter some operations at the site after a roof collapsed under heavy snow. The county also lost 110 jobs from October to November this year, the data show.

The November figures show Jefferson County added 230 jobs over the last year, though most of them were public sector, local and tribal government jobs. At 9.4 percent, the unemployment rate in Jefferson County is higher than the state average of 7 percent.

State economists, who forecasted a good 2014 and strong start to 2015, are now looking to a period of net expansion where the state has added the jobs it lost to the recession and will begin adding jobs before the next recession comes.

“We’re not there yet. It’s been a slow recovery. From here on out we’re gonna see how many more jobs we can add,” state economist Josh Lehner said last week.