Eastern Oregon – 2017 in the Rearview

Eastern Oregon – 2017 in the Rearview

by Christopher Rich

March 14, 2018

Total nonfarm employment grew 1.0 percent in Eastern Oregon in 2017. Nonfarm employment reached 67,512 jobs as both the private sector and the public sector added workers. A comparison of annual average employment in 2017 and 2016 shows the private sector expanded by 470 jobs over the year (+1.0%). The public sector added 178 jobs to grow 1.0 percent as well.

Private-sector employment grew to 49,034 jobs for Eastern Oregon in 2017. This represented 72.6 percent of the region’s total nonfarm employment: unchanged from 2016. The goods producing industry made the most headway in private employment, adding 244 jobs (+2.2%). This industry contains construction, logging, manufacturing, and mining. Leisure and hospitality served up the fastest growth rate as well as the second largest gain, adding 177 jobs (+2.9%). Wholesale and retail trade stored up 115 new jobs (+1.1%).

Public-sector employment reached 18,479 jobs in 2017. The biggest gain came in local government as the industry added 182 jobs (+1.5%). State government added 35 jobs for a gain of 0.8 percent. 

Industry losses were relatively light overall. Financial activities withdrew the most in private employment. The industry slipped 1.6 percent for a loss of 31 jobs.

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities carried the second biggest loss: down 18 jobs or 0.4 percent. In public employment, the federal government slid 2.1 percent for a loss of 39 jobs.

In comparison, Oregon’s overall growth rate (+2.1%) was twice as strong as Eastern Oregon’s. The state’s private sector grew 2.4 percent and the public sector grew 0.7 percent. Oregon saw growth in all but two industries. Other services, which grew 2.7 percent in Eastern Oregon, shed jobs at the state level to drop 0.3 percent in private employment. Federal government dropped 0.4 percent, shedding jobs at a more moderate pace than the region. Goods producing grew at a stronger 2.7 percent for the state; leisure and hospitality grew at a stronger 3.4 percent; and wholesale and retail trade grew at a stronger 1.8 percent. Statewide, local government grew 0.8 percent and state government grew 0.9 percent.   

Things Heat Up in the Summer

The majority of Eastern Oregon industries in 2017 hit their yearly low level of employment in January, and then climbed to their yearly high by June, July, or August. This is in line with historical seasonality trends for the region. July was Eastern Oregon’s hottest month in 2017, in terms of overall employment growth. Total nonfarm employment for July was 2.0 percent higher (+1,292 jobs) in 2017 than it was in 2016. Private employment for July was 2.3 percent higher (+1,140 Jobs) in 2017. Whether from the Round-Up, dragon boats, or the August eclipse, leisure and hospitality booked large summer gains. The industry saw growth of 5.0 percent from July 2016 to July 2017 and an even hotter 6.9 percent growth from August to August. Goods producing marked a 4.1 percent increase from July to July; the second hottest month for over-the-year gains in the industry. 

Labor Force Heats Up as Well

Nearly 1,000 new entrants joined Eastern Oregon’s labor force in 2017. The total labor force grew to 84,486 people (+1.2%). This was well below the state’s growth rate of 2.7 percent. At the same time, the region’s total number of unemployed decreased by 535 people (-11.1%), which bested the state’s rate of decrease (-10.7%). The change in Eastern Oregon’s unemployment rate matched the state’s rate of change. Eastern Oregon’s annual unemployment rate fell from 5.8 percent in 2016 to 5.1 percent in 2017. Oregon’s rate fell from 4.8 percent to 4.1 percent over the year.     

Highlights by County

Altogether, seven of eight counties saw at least some growth in total nonfarm employment. Half of Eastern Oregon’s counties fared better than the region as a collective. Four counties had a higher growth rate, two counties had a lower growth rate, and one county matched the region’s rate of growth for total nonfarm. Harney was the only county to see a drop, slipping 0.7 percent or 16 jobs. Harney’s private-sector loss of 40 jobs (-3.3%) accounted for all of the county’s decrease. A majority of this loss came from two industries. Professional and business services fell by 34 jobs for a 37.0 percent loss. Education and health services fell by 30 jobs for a 13.9 percent loss. Growth by volume for the county was relatively light. Local government gained the most for the county, adding 30 jobs (+4.4%). The goods producing industry gained the most in private employment, adding 12 jobs (+10.8%).       

Grant County achieved the highest total nonfarm growth rate (+2.4%) among Eastern Oregon counties, as well as the highest private-sector growth rate (+3.7%). Total nonfarm grew by 56 jobs with 46 of these in the private sector. The county’s private sector gains came largely from two industries. Leisure and hospitality added 28 jobs to expand 15.6 percent. The goods producing industry added 20 jobs to expand 7.4 percent. The remaining private-sector industries were relatively flat over the year with little to no growth or slight losses. Public-sector employment was a mixed bag as total government added 10 jobs for the county.  

Baker County added 69 nonfarm jobs for the year (+1.3%). Private employment grew by 88 jobs (+2.1%). Half of all Baker’s job growth came in education and health services. The industry added 72 jobs for the fastest growth rate (+8.9%). Wholesale and retail trade was second with a gain of 27 jobs (+3.2%). The steepest decline came in professional and business services (-7.8%), which dropped 28 jobs. Baker and Wallowa were the only counties in Eastern Oregon to show a decrease in total government employment. Baker shed 19 jobs (-1.6%) for the larger loss.

Malheur County added 126 nonfarm jobs over the year for a gain of 1.1 percent. Private employment added 110 jobs for a gain of 1.3 percent. Malheur’s goods producing industry gained 107 jobs, had the fastest growth rate (+7.9%), and accounted for nearly half of all jobs added in the county over the year. Leisure and hospitality gained 60 jobs (+5.2%) and accounted for over one-quarter of jobs added in the county. Job loss came predominantly from one industry. Education and health services shed 80 jobs (-4.7%), which accounted for 82.0 percent of all jobs lost in Malheur in 2017. Local government tacked on 29 jobs (+1.6%) to drive growth in the public sector.

Morrow County’s total nonfarm employment grew 0.9 percent in 2017, a gain of 44 jobs. Private employment dipped by one job as losses canceled out gains. Wholesale and retail trade added 50 jobs (+14.1%). Professional and business services added 45 jobs (+31.3%). The information industry was also a bright spot for the county. The goods producing industry gained ground in all Eastern Oregon counties except for Morrow. In Morrow County, the industry fell by 41 jobs (-10.5%) for the year. Due to confidentiality, this figure does not include losses that also occurred in Morrow’s construction industry. Local government grew by 33 jobs (+4.1%) to push gains in the county’s public sector.

Umatilla County’s total nonfarm grew by 1.0 percent to match Eastern Oregon’s growth rate. Total nonfarm gained 288 jobs in Umatilla with 182 added in private employment. Education and health services added 102 jobs (+3.0%), making it the top growth industry. The goods producing industry added 82 jobs (+1.8%) for second place. Umatilla’s biggest downturn was in professional and business services. The industry slid 1.8 percent, dropping 25 jobs. A loss of 15 jobs in information represented a 7.8 percent decrease for the industry. Local government, including education and tribal government, grew 1.7 percent, which accounted for 87 of the 106 jobs gained in total government.

Union County’s total nonfarm growth was light over the year. Nonfarm employment grew 0.3 percent or 29 jobs in 2017. Private employment added 28 jobs (+0.4%). The top two growth industries were leisure and hospitality, adding 36 jobs (+3.8%), and the goods producing industry, adding 23 jobs (+1.3%). Financial activities dropped the most with a loss of 31 jobs (-9.2%). Federal government added eight jobs (+3.5%) for the largest public-sector gain as total government employment ticked up by one job.

Wallowa County’s total nonfarm employment picked up 51 jobs (+2.1%) in 2017 as private employment grew by 58 jobs (+3.3%). Leisure and hospitality saw the largest gain by volume with the addition of 18 jobs (+6.9%). The information industry added three jobs to stretch its small footprint by 18.8 percent. Goods producing fared well, as did wholesale and retail trade. Both industries grew 3.6 percent for gains of 14 and 13 jobs, respectively. On the downside, financial activities fell by seven jobs (-4.9%) in the private sector and federal government dropped 14 jobs (-13.9%) in the public sector.

Current Employment Statistics

Current Employment Statistics (CES) data is produced monthly using survey-based employment estimation to provide the most up-to-date industry trends. CES data captures jobs covered by unemployment insurance as well as the small amount of jobs not covered by unemployment insurance. The Oregon Employment Department benchmarks the CES estimates every three months against actual employment counts of individual firms from quarterly unemployment insurance tax filings. During three of these quarterly benchmarks, we revise the CES data for the most recent filing period. Our annual benchmark however, looks at the previous two years. This helps adjust for discrepancies that might develop over time due to late filing or misfiling. During the annual benchmark, CES estimates for October through December are re-estimated. These three months are then finalized during the next quarterly benchmark in April. The preceding report uses CES data revised during our annual benchmark process in February.

A Final Note for Now

While this report offers a snapshot insight of changes in Eastern Oregon over the year, there are many intricate details to the story. I hope to revisit 2017 in May (after the fourth quarter benchmark) and provide some finer industry detail as well as data on wages. In the meantime, if you have a question, or if you would like to request a 2016 to 2017 change in industry table specific to your favorite Eastern Oregon County, send me an email: