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Identifying Oregon's Areas of Long-Term Labor Market Misery
by Jason J. Yohannan
Published Sep-24-2013

 
When we release the latest unemployment rate estimates for Oregon's counties every month, it's common practice to note which county had the highest jobless rate and which had the lowest. For several counties with high unemployment at or near the top of those monthly lists, double-digit joblessness has been a fact of life for a long time. Now we're going to tell you precisely how long.

This article is based on preliminary labor force data through July 2013. About two-thirds of Oregon's counties had a July unemployment rate under 10 percent, so they aren't even in this conversation. But we can't say the same for the other third.

Using seasonally adjusted data, Grant County has endured a longer stretch of double-digit unemployment than anywhere else in Oregon (Graph 1). As of July 2013, the county's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had been at or above 10 percent, without exception, for more than five years - a high-unemployment era extending all the way back to May 2008.

Several other counties, primarily in Central, Southern, and Eastern Oregon, are not far behind Grant County's predicament. Graph 1 identifies eight counties in all that had at least 58 consecutive months, up to and including July 2013, with seasonally adjusted unemployment rates cracking double digits.

Although it's included in Graph 1, Deschutes County is poised to fall off this list any day now, if it hasn't already done so by the time you read this. The county's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is trending downward and has been lingering right at 10.0 percent lately. Furthermore, Deschutes County's rate of job growth these days is among the state leaders. A return to single-digit unemployment seems imminent.

If you prefer to analyze jobless rate trends without the use of seasonal adjustment, Graph 2 reveals what you would get. Thanks to some September 2012 unemployment rates that dropped temporarily to the 9.5-to-9.9-percent range before seasonal adjustment, a few counties moved down from 50+ months of unyielding double-digit unemployment to 10 months. But that didn't help Crook, Douglas, and Josephine counties, which still registered at least 57 straight months of double-digit unemployment no matter how you slice it.

Oregon is on track to post a lower annual average unemployment rate in 2013 than in 2012. It should be the state's best outcome for this statistic in five years, but job seekers in several parts of the state are still waiting for this to feel like a recovery.

Graph 1
Consecutive months with double-digit joblessness longest streaks seasonally adj
Graph 2
Consecutive months with double-digit joblessness longest streaks not seasonally