Curry County, 2017 Annual Update

by Annette Shelton-Tiderman

May 23, 2018

As Curry County’s unemployment rates reach record lows, other statistics are also showing improvement. Although not yet back to pre-recession levels, Curry County’s civilian labor force is currently above 9,000. The last peak was in 2005 at 9,584. The labor force declined after 2005, bottoming out in 2014 (8,613) – long after other parts of the state were well into recovery. The number of people unemployed averaged 551 in 2017, substantially less than the recessionary peak of unemployed that soared to 1,250 in 2009. The county’s employment levels continue to show noticeable growth. The number of payroll-employed individuals peaked in 2005 at 7,044; dropped to 6,039 in 2011 and then climbed to 6,530 (2017).

Employment in Curry County Provides Many Opportunities

So, where do Curry County workers find employment? Currently, the largest employing sector is government (20.6%). Within government, federal employment accounts for 5.8 percent; state for 19.1 percent; and local government for 75.1 percent. Local government has a substantial number of jobs in health care and social assistance (31.7%) and in education (36.6%). Other major industries include trade, transportation, and utilities (18.0%; of which, 84.7% is retail trade); leisure and hospitality (17.9%); private education and health services (9.9%); primarily health care and social assistance); and manufacturing (9.7%). Within manufacturing, an industry long known for good-paying jobs, wood product manufacturing accounts for 68.8 percent of the 2017 employment, down from 76.5 percent in 2005.
Public Agencies Make Up a Key Sector

In 2005, government employment accounted for 18.8 percent of the county’s overall employment (1,324 jobs); local government provided nearly 3 out of every 4 government jobs. Although government employment has edged up since the peak prior to the recession to its current 20.6 percent of the county’s overall payroll employment, the increases in local government health care and social assistance have been remarkable. In 2005, public sector health care-related jobs accounted for 15.1 percent of local government employment. By the depths of the recession, these jobs provided one of every five local government jobs; by 2017, they accounted for 31.7 percent. The strong demand for health care and social assistance services supports this notable growth in local government employment.

Private Sector Businesses on the Rebound

Trade, transportation, and utilities currently provides 1,176 jobs. This is less than the 1,377 jobs in 2005 (-14.6%). Nearly 85 percent of this industry’s employment supports businesses engaged in retail trade. Accounting for over 15 percent of the county’s employment, retail trade employment is nearly 13 percent below pre-recession values.

Leisure and hospitality, tied to the overall economic well-being of tourists, has shown an impressive rebound since the lows of 2011. Having lost nearly 18 percent of its jobs between 2005 and 2011, this industry has added those 206 jobs back and is on its way to adding more (22.7% growth since 2011) This particular industry often provides that first-job opportunity to area youth as well as part-time employment for other workers.

Nationwide, the construction industry suffered major recessionary losses – so, too, did Curry County. Long considered a beacon of progress and source of varied employment opportunities, construction lost 47.1 percent of its jobs between 2005 and 2011 (-289). During the ensuing years of recovery, construction employment slowly added jobs (38). By 2017, this important industry was still 250 jobs below its 2005 peak (-40.9%).

Although manufacturing employment continues to decline, adjusting to changes in the work environment as well as global supply-demand constraints, Curry County’s wood product manufacturing has shown remarkable resilience. Accounting for over three-quarters of the manufacturing sector’s employment in 2005, wood product manufacturers shed nearly 19 percent of their jobs (-88). Between 2011 and 2017, they added 55 jobs, a 14.5 percent rebound! Wood product manufacturing is still 7.1 percent below its pre-recession peak; overall manufacturing is 3.3 percent above. Other manufacturing activities are taking hold in Curry County, like food manufacturing.  


Economic shifts of the last decade show substantial employment changes. Overall, between 2005 and 2011, Coos County lost 1,005 jobs – and 52 businesses. The recovery since then has been slow. The county is still more than 500 jobs below the pre-recessionary peak and shy 22 businesses. Behind the shifting employment levels, are the effects on wages. In 2017 dollars, the pre-recession 2005 payroll provided $229,485,660 to workers in the community. The 2017 value of the 2011 payroll was $202,583,031 – a decline of 11.7 percent in purchasing power. The recovery to-date currently generates $227,076,309 in payroll. Recovery, yes…but there was a substantial cost between 2005 and 2011.

It has been said that population drives supply and demand for goods and services. It is important to note that since 2010, the county’s population has remained stable, averaging around 2.0 percent growth. As is typical in rural areas, the population is aging, and by 2017, one-third of residents were ages 65 and over. The loss of jobs and population considerations, including a slow growth rate, an increasingly older population, and continued reliance on in-migration, suggest that the county may continue to find it challenging to sustain business expansion and regain peak employment levels across all industries.


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