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County unemployment falls below 5 percent

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in the Columbia Gorge for February 2015 ranged from a low of 4.9 percent in Hood River County to 6 percent in Sherman County, according to figures recently released by the Oregon Employment Department.

Hood River County’s rate ranked as Oregon’s second lowest, falling below 5 percent for the first time since May 2008. Wasco County’s seasonally adjusted rate, at 5.7 percent, dipped below 6 percent for the first time since June 2008.

Leisure and hospitality led Hood River County’s private sector in February, climbing by 40 jobs to total 1,280. Educational and health services rose by 30 jobs to total 1,920 and professional and business services chipped in 20 to reach 890. On the losing end, retail trade eliminated 40 jobs in February, falling to 1,280. Total nonfarm employment rose to 11,010 in February with private industry adding 70 jobs and government contributing 20.

Hood River’s private sector rose by 360 jobs over the year, with arts, entertainment and recreation leading the way, up 130 jobs. Manufacturing also impressed, rising by 120 jobs to total 1,520, and retail trade chipped in 80.

Wasco County’s nonfarm employment rose by 190 jobs over the year ending in February to total 9,650. Private industry led the way with a gain of 200 jobs over the year while government landed in the minus column. Educational and health services led Wasco County’s private industry gains, rising by 60 jobs over the year. Retail trade kicked in 40 jobs and professional and business services grew by 40. Wasco County’s monthly employment picture changed very little in February, with government rising by 10 jobs to total 2,140 and private industry reaching 7,510, also on a gain of 10.

Gorge added jobs throughout 2014

Total nonfarm employment in the Columbia Gorge (Gilliam, Hood River, Sherman, Wasco and Wheeler counties) rose by 330 jobs, or 1.5 percent, in 2014 to total 22,470, well above 2013’s 0.7 percent increase. Job growth in 2014 ranked as the Columbia Gorge’s best showing since a gain of 720 jobs or 3.4 percent in 2007.

Columbia Gorge private industry employment rose by 295 jobs, or 1.6 percent, in 2014 to total 18,245. Back in 2008, private industry employment totaled 17,495 with recession losses in 2009 costing the region 475 jobs. Private industry employment rose in each of the past five years, adding 1,235 jobs. The region’s 2014 private industry total represents an increase of 760 jobs (+4.3 percent) over its 2008 pre-recession peak.

Government ended four years of declines in 2014 with a gain of 35 jobs to total 4,215. Compared with its peak of 4,500 jobs in 2009, government would need to add an additional 245 jobs in the Columbia Gorge to equal pre-recession levels. The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs moved their gaming operations from Wasco County to Jefferson County in 2012, putting that 2009 peak out of reach.

Oregon’s nonfarm employment rose by 46,000 jobs or 2.8 percent in 2014, well above the Columbia Gorge’s 1.4 percent gain. Private industry employment rose by 3 percent in 2014 and Oregon’s government employment climbed by 1.6 percent.

Hood River County Job Growth

Hood River County led the Columbia Gorge region in 2014, growing by 280 jobs or 2.7 percent to total 10,760. Government landed in the minus column, cutting 20 jobs (-1.5 percent) to total 1,310, while private industry gained 290 jobs (+3.2 percent) to reach 9,440.

Manufacturing led Hood River County’s private industry growth in 2014, rising by 130 jobs to total 1,490, an exceptional 9.6 percent increase. Next, retail trade rose by 70 jobs to total 1,340, followed by an increase of 60 jobs in food services and drinking places, pushing its industry total to 1,120. Educational and health services (+40); other services (+30); natural resources, mining, and construction (+20); accommodation (+10); and financial activities (+10) also rose in 2014.

Hood River County’s private industry job losses were limited to a drop of 40 in arts, entertainment and recreation and a cut of 20 in professional and business services.

Wasco County Job Growth

Wasco County held its own in 2014, with private industry cutting 20 jobs to total 7,700 and government adding 20 jobs to reach 2,180.

Educational and health services led Wasco County’s private sector in 2014, rising by 60 jobs to total 2,130, an increase of 2.9 percent.

Manufacturing (+20); accommodations (+10); professional and business services (+10); information (+10); and trade, transportation, and utilities (+10) also gained jobs in 2014.


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