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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Region will see boost in jobs

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Region will see boost in jobs

Report shows Wallowa, Union, Baker counties will add to workforce in next 10 years

Wallowa, Union and Baker counties are on track to add more than 1,000 jobs to the workforce during the next seven years, according to statistics recently released by the Oregon Employment Department.

The job boost is a 10 percent increase over a 10-year time span — 2012 to 2022 — with a projected gain of 1,470 jobs in the private sector and 250 jobs in government. 

The private education and health services industries are estimated to add the most jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities industries will show the second most increase in employment, according to the OED statistics.

Eastern Oregon’s fastest-growing occupation groups center on farming, fishing, forestry and health care.

The top five fastest-growing occupations in Eastern Oregon will be: tour guides and escorts; ushers, lobby attendants and ticket takers; hand grinding and polishing workers; physical therapists aides and physical therapist assistants.

The ODE report also illustrates that the occupations projected to have the most openings in the region from 2012 to 2022 are: retails salespersons; combined food preparation and serving workers; cashiers; waiters and waitresses, and general office clerks.

The report said that there are several factors to the projected job growth. An ongoing recovery from the recent recession along with a growing health care sector — fueled by an aging population — population growth and a growing demand to fill jobs left vacant by baby boomer retirements.

“Obviously, any sort of job growth is a good thing,” Andrew Crollard, an ODE workforce analyst based in La Grande, said.

Crollard said the statistics show a modest commercial development cycle in the region.

“It kind of reaffirms there is a projected to be economic growth in the area. In addition there are a lot of replacement openings that will be created from the baby boomers hitting retirement age,” he said.

Still, if there is a downside to the anticipated job expansion, it is that many of the categories listed for growth contain generally low wages.

“They do tend to be low-skill, low-educational requirement and low-paying than other possibilities like registered nurses,” Crollard said.

Yet the report outlined that more than half — 51 percent — of the projected job openings will entail some type of education beyond the high school level for candidates to be competitive. 

The report also showed that the Portland metro area and Central Oregon will demonstrate the most job growth between 2012 and 2022. Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties could see a 16 percent employment growth rate. In Central Oregon, Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties also could see a 16 percent job growth rate. 

The boost in jobs in the area connected to the retail industry is not a surprise, Crollard said.

“They are just big occupations that employ a lot of people to begin with. Retail salesperson, combined food preparation and service workers like cashiers, those are going to be in the top 10 simply because there are so many people employed,” he said.

Charlie Mitchell, La Grande’s community and economic development director, said he wasn’t surprised by the result of the state employment department’s projections.

“Ten percent growth (over 10 years) pretty much matches our population growth,” he said.

He was also not surprised to see that the majority of the state’s projected growth is focused in the Portland metro area. One regional surprise was the fact that growth in Umatilla County is projected to be slower than in Northeast Oregon, especially given the recent growth of the Hermiston area.

In terms of industry projections, Mitchell said it’s possible that local economic development efforts could skew the state’s projections for manufacturing.

“If you look at all the industries on the list manufacturing is potentially one I think we could grow the most because it’s not dependent on population,” he said.

In order to really skew the numbers, Mitchell said there would need to be a concerted effort in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties to attract businesses bringing jobs to the region.

“There’s certainly some potential there,” he said.

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