The Crook County jobless rate dropped 0.3 percent from May to June after several months of little to no change

More often than not during the economic recovery, statewide job growth statistics have usually outpaced those of Crook County.

This month, the roles reversed as state job numbers showed a decline overall, following several months of steady growth, while local job growth continued to climb.

For June, Crook County saw its first unemployment rate decline in several months. After a period of essentially no change, the rate dropped from 10.6 percent in May to 10.3 percent in June.

The employment department also reported that Crook County was the third fastest of all Oregon counties in job growth over the past year, with the community gaining 230 new jobs, including 60 from May to June alone. The greatest job gains by industry during that timeframe were in wholesale trade and wood product manufacturing, up 50 and 40 jobs, respectively.

By contrast, overall state numbers showed a loss of 4,300 non-farm jobs from May to June, which raised concerns among Republicans in the Oregon House of Representatives.

“(June’s) job figures are deeply troubling and another sign that Oregon continues to trail the nation in job recovery and labor participation,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane “Thousands of Oregonians want to work, but can’t find a job, and small businesses are being squeezed by regulations and red tape. Our citizens deserve better.”

Statewide, the single industry seeing the greatest amount of job loss was construction, which lost 3,600 positions, or 4.4 percent of its workers, from May to June.

While it may appear on the surface that Crook County is headed in a different direction than the rest of the state, Damon Runberg, the Oregon Employment Department’s regional economist for Central Oregon, is reserving judgment. He pointed out that in terms of economic recovery, the state overall is still well ahead of Crook County.

“The state has gone on a really steady streak of continuous job gains,” he noted. “June was kind of an aberration. It was definitely a break from the trend at the statewide level.”

Runberg said that if the same decline in jobs at the state level were to occur for a three-month time span, the employment department would consider it a trend and take the development more seriously.

However, Runberg did not dismiss the job growth in Crook County, which has occurred over the period of a few months. Despite attempts at the local level to diversify the economy, the greatest growth has occurred in industries that the community has traditionally relied upon.

“We are seeing some real gains in manufacturing across Central Oregon,” Runberg noted. “Those counties that have historically been dependent on wood products have been doing well ... All of that can be attributed to a great turnaround in the housing market nationally.”

Runberg went on to point out that all of the employment department data is later adjusted and those numbers will show a more accurate snapshot of employment in both Crook County and the rest of the state. Though he hasn’t finished revising Crook County data for June, he indicated that some of job growth numbers may decline from original estimates.

The Oregon Employment Department will release its July unemployment rate and job survey data on Aug. 12.

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