Rate of job loss slows

By Observer Upload March 25, 2013 12:14 pm

by Terri Harber/WesCom News Service

The unemployment rate didn’t improve around Northeastern Oregon between December and January,  according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Union County’s adjusted rate for January was 8.8 percent. This is better than the original estimate of 10.7 percent. The rate was 8.6 percent in December.

Baker County’s adjusted rate during the December-to-January period remained the same at 9.3 percent. This is more positive than the original estimate of 12.2 percent for January.

Wallowa County’s adjusted rate was 10.2 percent in January compared to 10.1 in December. January exceeded the initial estimate of 13.9 percent.

Analysts for the department also released some yearly regional statistics for 2012.

The counties that make up the department’s Eastern Oregon region are Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Union and Wallowa.

The region’s employment loss in 2012 was 2.6 percent — not as severe as the 9.2 percent in 2011, according to the department’s figures.

The region’s rate of job growth lagged behind that of the state and the nation, however.

Oregon experienced a consistent level of employment growth, 1.1 percent, during the years 2011 and 2012. The United States’ overall growth rate is slightly better at 1.2 percent in 2011 and 1.7 percent in 2012.

Agriculture gains

Many parts of the Eastern Oregon region showed employment gains in agriculture during 2012.

Union averaged 680 jobs, a level not achieved since 2005. Baker averaged 580 jobs, which is the best number since 2007. Grant and Harney had their best years since 2001 with averages of 330 and 580, respectively.

The exceptions were Malheur and Wallowa, though neither county was down significantly. Malheur’s decrease to an average of 1,790 was described as “marginal” and Wallowa essentially was flat at an average of 360.

Agriculture is a separate category within the department’s record keeping.

Tri-county area

Only Baker and Union counties added jobs in 2012. Wallowa County and the rest of Eastern Oregon didn’t.

• Union had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent in 2012. Employment grew 0.9 percent in 2012. The loss in 2011 was equivalent to this past year’s gain at 0.9 percent.

• Baker had an unemployment rate of 10 percent in 2012. There was 0.6 percent employment growth this past year. A period of shrinkage occurred in 2011 with a loss of 2.9 percent.

• Wallowa had an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent in 2012. It registered no significant employment gain or loss in 2012. There was a 0.4 loss in 2011.

In the tri-county area of Baker-Union-Wallowa there were some specific trends during 2012.

Professional and business service jobs were the high-growth employment sector in Baker County during 2012. More than 30 of these jobs were added.

Manufacturers added 60 jobs in Union during 2012 — the job market sector that suffered the most during the recession.

Union County also had job growth in the public sector, specifically state government jobs. Ninety of these jobs were added during 2012.

Eastern Oregon University is a major employer and “steers the job trends,” the report stated.

Government employment in Baker and Wallowa continues to decrease, however. Both counties are at low levels not seen in a quarter century.

Wallowa’s overall private-sector employment rose in 2012 but these gains were offset by the public sector job losses.