A Glance Back at Eastern Oregon in 2018

by Christopher Rich

March 14, 2019

Total nonfarm employment growth slowed to 0.5 percent in Eastern Oregon in 2018 from 1.0 percent the year prior. Nonfarm employment reached 67,875 jobs as the private sector increased and the public sector decreased. A surface level comparison of annual average employment shows the private sector expanded by 2.1 percent, a gain of 1,038 jobs and double the 2017 growth rate. Meanwhile, the public sector dropped by 3.7 percent or 680 jobs. Beneath the surface, much of this shift was due to the reclassification of home care workers from state government to private-sector education and health services.

Beginning January 2018, Oregon home care workers who receive payments through the Department of Human Services are now counted in private-sector education and health services instead of state government. This change affected the classification of approximately 17,000 home care workers in Oregon. The change was due to legislative action clarifying that for purposes of workforce and labor market information, home care workers are not employees of state government. The reclassification affected private sector and government over-the-year change figures, but did not affect total employment levels.
Lots of Shifting, Little Overall Growth

Private-sector employment climbed to 50,091 for Eastern Oregon in 2018. The private sector accounted for 73.8 percent of the region’s total nonfarm employment: 1.1 percentage points higher than in 2017. Education and health services grew to 9,216 with the addition of home care workers, a gain of 9.8 percent. Home care worker employment, which averaged 924 for Eastern Oregon in 2017 decreased a bit in 2018. Removing home care workers from the industry level analysis reveals that education and health services was flat over the year. In other words, apart from the gain in employment due to the addition of home care workers, the size of the industry was virtually unchanged in 2018.  

The goods producing industry generated the most actual growth in 2018, as was the case in 2017. This industry, which contains construction, logging, manufacturing, and mining, added 180 jobs (+1.6%). Leisure and hospitality served up the second largest gain, adding 156 jobs (+2.5%). Other services held the fastest growth rate with the addition of 53 new jobs (+2.9%).

Public-sector employment fell to 17,784 in 2018. The government’s overall loss was due to home care worker reclassification. Public-sector employment would have gained had the switch not occurred. State government’s 19.9 percent loss was almost entirely from the removal of home care workers, state employment was virtually unchanged otherwise. Local government added 237 jobs: 98 of which were in education (+1.5%). The federal government dipped by just 30 jobs (-1.7%).

The bulk of actual losses came in two private-sector industries. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities carried the biggest loss, dropping 159 jobs or 3.5 percent. Wholesale and retail trade unloaded 138 jobs for a 1.3 percent decrease.

In comparison, Oregon’s overall growth rate (+1.8%) was three and a half times larger than Eastern Oregon’s. The state’s private sector grew by 3.1 percent while the public sector dropped by 4.8 percent. Oregon saw growth in all but two broad industries, both public. The federal government shed 100 jobs at the state level to dip by 0.4 percent. State government fell by 29.8 percent, primarily from home care worker reclassification. Goods producing grew at a stronger 4.1 percent for the state; leisure and hospitality grew at a more subdued 2.1 percent; and other services grew at a more subdued 1.6 percent. Statewide, local government grew by 0.9 percent with just 300 jobs added in education.  

Summertime Was Mild

In 2018, most Eastern Oregon industries hit their yearly low level of employment in January or February and then climbed to their yearly high level by July or August. This is in line with historical seasonality trends for the region. May was the hottest month in terms of over-the-month employment gains. Total nonfarm employment picked up by just over 1,000 jobs (+1.5%) in May as industries such as leisure and hospitality, the federal government, and the goods producing industry geared up for the summer season. Many added jobs for these industries are seasonal and employment began to decrease again in October.

June, July, and August were unseasonably cool in 2018 (unlike 2017) for over-the-year growth in total nonfarm employment. Losses in Baker, Grant, and Malheur counties held back over-the-year gains for the three-month stretch in wholesale and retail trade. Losses in Umatilla County held back over-the-year gains in transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Because of this, January proved to be the hottest month in terms of overall over-the-year growth. Total nonfarm employment in January 2018 was 1,280 jobs (+2.0%) higher than in January 2017. The majority of gains were in leisure and hospitality, and the goods producing industry.

Labor Force Cooled

Eastern Oregon’s total labor force decreased by 712 in 2018. The annual average labor force slipped to 83,783 people (-0.8%). This was opposite the direction of the state’s labor force, which grew by 0.7 percent in 2018, a slowdown from the state’s 2017 growth rate. All eight Eastern Oregon counties saw a decrease in the labor force. This ranged from a 0.3 percent decrease in Umatilla County to a 2.1 percent decrease in Morrow County.

At the same time, the region’s annual average number of unemployed increased by 0.8 percent or 33 people. The state saw the number of unemployed increase by 1.5 percent. Eastern Oregon’s annual average unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.1 percent in 2018 whereas Oregon’s rate ticked up to 4.2 percent from 4.1 percent in 2017.        
County Level Highlights

Five of Eastern Oregon’s eight counties saw at least some growth in total nonfarm employment while three counties took a loss. Three of the five gainers saw growth rates at least double the region’s rate of growth. Grant was the only losing county to see total nonfarm fall by more than half a percent.

Employment dropped by 1.3 percent in Grant County over the year, a loss of 31 jobs. Private-sector employment dropped by 1.7 percent (-22 jobs) for the county, with the largest loss in wholesale and retail trade (-6.3%). Financial activities (-14.7%) and professional and business services (-9.1%) saw downward movement as well; the two industries lost 10 jobs each. Growth by volume was light across industries on the upswing. Local government non-education gained the most in Grant, adding 20 jobs (+5.1%).

Morrow County led the pack for overall gains in Eastern Oregon. Morrow’s total nonfarm employment grew by 6.8 percent in 2018, a gain of 319 jobs. Private employment jumped by 9.2 percent for a gain of 335 jobs. The boost in private employment came with help from home care worker reclassification. However, other industries drove the county’s private-sector gain. The goods producing industry added 68 jobs (+3.6%) and professional and business services added 40 jobs (+21.2%). The information industry was a bright spot with large gains for the county. Local government non-education added 45 jobs (+10.0%) in the public sector. 

Baker County added 30 nonfarm jobs for the year (+0.6%). Private employment grew by 84 jobs (+2.0%). The goods producing industry added 46 jobs (+5.6%) for the largest gain outside of education and health services. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities grew at the fastest rate (+7.9%) with a gain of 17 jobs. The steepest decline came in professional and business services (-13.4%), which dropped 44 jobs. Apart from home care worker reclassification, Baker’s government sector remained relatively flat.

Harney County added 30 jobs in total nonfarm employment for a gain of 1.3 percent. Private-sector growth was 8.5 percent with a large share from home care workers. The county’s other private-sector gains came largely from two industries. Leisure and hospitality added 25 jobs for growth of 10.2 percent. Professional and business services added 21 jobs for growth of 34.4 percent. Remaining private-sector industries were relatively flat over the year with light gains or slight losses. Public-sector employment took a hit as local government education lost 26 jobs (-9.5%) and state government reclassified home care workers. 

Malheur County shed 43 nonfarm jobs over the year for a loss of 0.4 percent. Private employment slipped by 18 jobs for a loss of 0.2 percent. Malheur took a big hit in wholesale trade. Combined, wholesale and retail trade dropped 120 jobs (-4.7%). Professional and business services dropped 30 jobs (-6.8%). The goods-producing industry picked up some slack with a gain of 40 jobs (+2.7%). Local government education added 80 jobs for a gain of 6.0 percent.

Umatilla County’s total nonfarm job count was virtually unchanged in 2018, slipping by 0.1 percent. Private employment gained 328 jobs while public employment dropped 348 jobs. Home care worker reclassification accounted for a large gain in private education and health services and a large drop in state employment. The most notable gain outside of education and health services was in professional and business services, up 42 jobs or 3.1 percent. Most industries saw light growth or slight losses. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities took a large cut, dropping by 166 jobs (-5.8%).
Union County’s total nonfarm growth rate matched the region’s rate of growth. Nonfarm employment grew 0.5 percent or 49 jobs in 2018. Private-sector employment added 164 jobs (+2.1%). Private-sector education and health services gained 123 jobs while state government lost 123 jobs. Apart from home care workers, private employment gained the most in leisure and hospitality. The industry added 54 jobs for growth of 5.4 percent. Other broad industries in Union County saw little movement.

Wallowa County’s total nonfarm employment picked up by 24 jobs (+1.0%) as the private sector grew by 68 jobs (+3.8%). The overall gain came mainly from home care worker reclassification along with some added growth in private-sector education and health services. Financial activities added seven jobs for a gain of 5.2 percent. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities shed five jobs for a loss of 5.2 percent. Local government education added 12 jobs for a gain of 6.5 percent.

A Final Note

The preceding report uses Current Employment Statistics (CES) data revised during our annual benchmark process in February. CES data captures jobs covered by unemployment insurance as well as the small number of jobs not covered by unemployment insurance. While this report offers a glance at changes in Eastern Oregon in 2018, its broad scope overlooks many fine details. If you have questions, feel free to send me an email: Christopher.M.Rich@Oregon.gov.


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