The Oregon Employment Department’s Labor Market Information System released December 2009 jobs and employment data for Oregon’s counties today. In most respects, Central Oregon’s labor market is not significantly changed from November, and very close to our forecast.

The Bend MSA (Deschutes County) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell from 14.2 percent in November to 14 percent in December. The Jefferson County unemployment measure fell from 14.4 to 14.1 percent, while the Crook County measure rose from 16.7 percent to 16.8 percent. The declines are due to labor force declines, and not new jobs.

Year-on-year non-farm jobs changes were negative for each of the three counties, which was the case in November. The year-on-year job declines moderated slightly for Crook County, from a 13.6 percent decline in November to a 11.1 percent decline in December. The year-on-year job declines for Deschutes County and Jefferson County were unchanged at 2.5 percent declines and 3.2 percent declines, respectively.

In Crook County, the year-on-year job declines are in all sectors except Retail Trade and Leisure/Hospitality, which is counter to the trends in the State and the United States. In Deschutes County, the year-on-year job declines are in all sectors except Leisure/Hospitality, Personal/Maintenance Services, and Government. In Jefferson County the year-on-year job declines are in only six sectors, in contrast to the State and the Nation. The non-declining sectors include: Construction, Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, Technology, Education/Healthcare, Leisure/Hospitality, and Personal/Maintenance services.

Central Oregon’s job resilience in Leisure/Hospitality is due to tourism and December tourism at least as evidenced by this jobs report, is providing support to the Central Oregon economy. In part at least, this is due to better early-season ski conditions. Tourism will likely support the Central Oregon labor market for a few months yet to come, which is good news indeed.

We interpret the Central Oregon December jobs report as indicating the area is still “Bumping Along the Bottom”. However, if the non-tourism sectors can begin a process of recovery, then along with the strength in Tourism, the area’s economy could begin a nice recovery.