Deschutes County lost 870 jobs in May amid record hiring demand? The regional economist does not buy it

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Says he expects payroll tax records to paint a different picture

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Early federal employment estimates for May show a slowdown in hiring in central Oregon, with all three counties below normal seasonal expectations – but the Department’s regional economist Oregon’s job is very skeptical of data which shows Deschutes County in fact lost nearly 900 jobs.

Here is the May report from regional economist Damon Runberg:

Crook County: The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.5% in May, little change from 7.4% in April. The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts of COVID-19 in February 2020, when it was 4.4%.

The pace of hiring slowed considerably in May after sharp increases in April. The 120 jobs created in May were 60 fewer jobs than expected at this time of year. Total non-farm employment remains up 1.2% from the pre-COVID peak in February 2020.

The slower pace of hiring in May was largely due to an earlier seasonal acceleration in leisure and hospitality. Job gains in May were concentrated in government, professional and business services.

Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond MSA): The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was little changed to 6.2% in May, from 6.3% in April. The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts of COVID-19 in February 2020, when it was 3.3%.

Preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that employment levels were unchanged in May. On a seasonally adjusted basis, that would represent a monthly loss of 870 jobs, a monthly job loss larger than any month of the Great Recession of the past decade.

This lackluster estimate is due to job losses in leisure and hospitality. Prior to this estimate, Deschutes County had not experienced any loss of recreation and hospitality jobs in May in the 20-year series history.

This monthly estimate for May is highly questionable. It comes at a time when demand for hiring, as measured by online help search ads, was reaching record levels in Deschutes County. In addition, the number of local residents applying for unemployment insurance has fallen 56% since January.

In Oregon, these monthly Bureau of Labor Statics estimates are calibrated (revised) on a rolling quarterly basis using payroll tax records. However, those estimates for May won’t go through this process for three to four months. In the meantime, the estimates for April and May remain questionable.

According to these estimates, employment in Deschutes County remains 5.3% below the pre-COVID peak of February 2020 (-4,800 jobs).

Jefferson County: The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.9% in May, up slightly from 6.6% in April. The unemployment rate remains higher than before the first impacts of COVID-19 in February 2020, when it was 4.1%.

Total non-farm employment only increased by 80 jobs in May, which is about 70 jobs less than one would generally expect at this time of year. Despite these slower gains in recent months, total non-farm employment has fallen only about 1.1% (80 jobs) from the pre-COVID peak of February 2020.

Upcoming press releases

The Oregon Department of Employment plans to release unemployment rates for counties and metropolitan areas for June on Tuesday, July 20 and data from the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey. for June on Tuesday July 13.

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