Deschutes County lost 870 jobs in May amid record hiring demand? Regional economist doesn’t buy it

Says he expects payroll tax records will paint different picture

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Initial federal job estimates for May reveal a slowdown in hiring across Central Oregon, with all three counties underperforming normal seasonal expectations — but the Oregon Employment Department’s regional economist is very skeptical of data that shows Deschutes County actually lost nearly 900 jobs.

Here’s Regional Economist Damon Runberg’s report for May:

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

The pace of hiring slowed considerably in May following sharp gains in April. The 120 jobs added in May represented 60 fewer jobs than typically expected this time of year. Total nonfarm 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 ramp-up in leisure and hospitality. Job gains in May were concentrated in government and professional and business services.

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

Preliminary estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show employment levels unchanged in May. On a seasonally adjusted basis, this would represent a monthly loss of 870 jobs, a larger monthly job loss than any single month during The Great Recession last decade.

This lackluster estimate is being driven by job losses in leisure and hospitality. Prior to this estimate, Deschutes County had not posted job losses in leisure and hospitality in the month of May in the 20-year series history.

This monthly estimate for May is highly questionable. It comes at a point when hiring demand, as measured by online help wanted ads, was at record levels across Deschutes County. Additionally, the number of local residents on an unemployment insurance claim dropped 56% since January.

In Oregon, these monthly estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statics are benchmarked (revised) on a quarterly rolling basis using payroll tax records. However these estimates for May will not go through this process for another three to four months. In the meantime, the estimates for both April and May remain questionable.

According to these estimates, employment in Deschutes County remains 5.3% below the pre-COVID peak from 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 from COVID-19 in February 2020, when it was 4.1%.

Total nonfarm employment rose by only 80 jobs in May, which represents around 70 fewer jobs than would typically be expected this time of year. Despite these slower gains the past few months, total nonfarm employment is only down around 1.1% (80 jobs) from the Pre-COVID peak from February 2020.

Next Press Releases

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

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