LA GRANDE — Baker and Union counties shed more than 200 leisure and hospitality jobs from October 2019 to October 2020, the state’s employment department reported Tuesday, Dec. 15. And the unemployment rate throughout Northeast Oregon remains higher than last year.

Baker County’s nonfarm payroll employment fell by 200 since October 2019, with 130 job losses in the private sector and 70 in the public sector, according to the report from the Oregon Employment Department, and leisure and hospitality took the largest hit in the private sector, losing 70 jobs. But local government cut 90 jobs, making for the largest losses overall in Baker County, primarily in education.

During the month of October, however, employment decreased by 70 jobs with losses in a few industries. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased 0.9 percentage points in October to 6.6%. The raw rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 5.7% in October.

That was the largest over-the-year increase in Northeast Oregon, according to the report.

Union County’s total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 500 over the year. The private sector dropped by 320 while the public sector dropped by 180. Local government led losses, down 160, and leisure and hospitality fell by 140 jobs.

Construction and financial activities were the only two industries to see gains in Union County, up 50 jobs and 20 jobs, respectively.

Total employment in the county, though, rose by 140 over the month as local government tacked on 200 jobs, primarily in education. The private sector was virtually unchanged in October with small losses canceling small gains throughout. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped 0.7 percentage points to 6.2% in October. The raw rate decreased 0.4 percentage points in October to 5.5%.

Baker County’s unemployment rate of 5.7% was the largest over-the-year increase in Northeast Oregon, according to the report, while Union County’s 5.5% was No. 2.

Statewide, however, Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.0% in November from 6.8%, as revised, in October. The decrease put Oregon’s rate below the U.S. unemployment rate, which decreased to 6.7% in November from 6.9% in October.

The figures reflect Oregon’s employment situation just before Gov. Kate Brown ordered the “freeze” on certain social activities, including in-person dining, to combat the rise of COVID-19 in the state, according to Gail Krumenauer, state employment economist with the Oregon Employment Department.

Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4,200 jobs in November, following a revised gain of 9,800 jobs in October. Oregon employers added jobs in each of the past seven months, and the state has recovered 46% of the jobs cut in March and April.

Over the past five months the rate of job growth slowed. Monthly growth averaged 9,600 jobs in September and October, while more rapid gains averaging 17,000 per month occurred in July and August.

Over-the-month job gains in November were largest in transportation, warehousing and utilities (up 3,100 jobs); professional and business services (up 2,600); manufacturing (up 1,700); and health care and social assistance (up 1,500).

Monthly losses were concentrated in construction (down 2,300 jobs); government (down 1,800); and retail trade ( down 1,100).

Transportation, warehousing and utilities added the most jobs in November and was the only major industry to add jobs since November 2019.

Online shopping is booming and the industry has hired thousands of workers to keep up with demand in warehouses and as delivery drivers. The industry gained 7,500 jobs, or 10.3%, since November 2019.

Leisure and hospitality added 300 jobs in November, following a revised gain of 3,300 in October. However, these gains recovered only a fraction of the 110,500 jobs cut in March and April. The industry — which includes restaurants, bars and recreation employers — has been the hardest hit industry due to the pandemic. In November, it employed 161,300 in Oregon, nearly 25% fewer than in November 2019 when it employed 214,900.

The Oregon Employment Department reported it plans to release the November county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, Dec. 22, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for December on Jan. 20, 2021.

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