Bend’s economy growing

State report shows solid job gains and home price increases

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin

Published: September 05. 2013 4:00AM PST


Rising home prices and new private-sector jobs have turned Bend into one of Oregon’s fastest-growing regions, in terms of economic health, according to a recently released state report.

The Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast report highlighted the Bend area’s uptick in jobs and housing activity over the last year as evidence of a modest recovery after several dismal years.

“… The hardest hit housing areas of Bend and Medford, which fell the furthest in (the) recession, are now leading the state in job creation rates in the private sector,” states the report released Aug. 28.

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis issues the quarterly forecast. It’s meant as a tool for local and state leaders to measure economic health and for state budgeting.

A solid 12 months for tourism in Bend is pushing businesses like hotels and restaurants to add new workers, state employment data show. A suddenly hot housing market seems to be creating new construction jobs.

Deschutes County added nearly 2,000 private-sector, or nongovernmental, jobs between July 2012 and July 2013, according to Oregon Employment Department data.

“Tourism-related spending has certainly come back” in Bend, said Josh Lehner, an economist with the Office of Economic Analysis.

As a percentage of the workforce, total private-sector job gains outpaced even the Portland area, from July to July. And while job growth isn’t matching the pre-recession pace, “overall the trends are positive,” Lehner said.

Home-price gains in Bend are far outpacing any other population center in the state. The forecast report showed a 16.7 percent increase in Bend home prices in the second quarter, compared with the second quarter of 2012. Portland had the second highest increase, at 8.2 percent.

Bend is no stranger to fast home-price gains, Lehner noted. The city’s price appreciation rate topped the entire country when the housing market was booming between 2005 and 2007, only to suffer the hardest crash when the market collapsed in 2008.

But Lehner said the new gains aren’t reason for fears of a repeat.

“We’ve been underbuilding for a couple years now,” he said. Home prices have risen as the supply of homes for sale has shrunk, and prices could stabilize as more homes are built.

“Even if the growth rate is really high, I don’t know if it’s worrisome yet,” Lehner said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820