PORTLAND — One aspect of Oregon’s economic recovery following the recession before 2010 is that it has not been even across the board for the whole state, and Malheur County is one that is still at a job deficit.
A recent report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy shows that more than one third of the state’s 36 counties have not recovered the number of jobs lost during the recession and wages of the average Oregonian have shown little movement.
“By some measures the Oregon jobs market rarely looked better, but the statewide figures can mask the difficulties some communities are facing,” said center policy fellow Audrey Mechling.
For a record high of 11.9 percent in 2009, Oregon’s jobless rate dropped to 4 percent by this past July, according to the center’s review of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That was the lowest jobless rate over the last three decades.
“Yet, as of 2018, fourteen Oregon counties, all but one of them rural counties — had not recovered the jobs lost during the Great Recession,” the center’s report reads. Besides Malheur County, other counties were Umatilla, Baker, Lincoln Union, Coos, Douglas, Lake, Gilliam, Klamath, Curry, Grant, Harney and Crook.
The jobless rate for all rural counties was 5.5 percent in 2018, compared to 3.6 percent for counties in the Portland-metro area. Unemployment has remained uneven for racial and ethnic groups, according to the center, with 2018 Latino unemployment standing at 5.6 percent compared to 4.1 percent for white Oregonians.
Despite the record unemployment, real hourly wages for the average earner in Oregon increased only 3 percent from 2009, but going back to 1979, the increase has only been 1 percent.
“When wages remain stagnant even in the face of one of the longest periods of economic expansion and lowest levels of unemployment, it’s time for lawmakers to put in place policies that increase the paychecks of workers,” Mechling said.
“From boosting tax credits for working families to removing obstacles to unionization, there is much lawmakers can do.”