Employment on rise in most sectors

Sean C. Morgan

The rate of unemployment for Linn County reached its pre-recession levels last year, declining from a high of nearly 11 percent in 2009, according to data released by the state Employment Department.

In December, the Linn County unemployment rate was 5 percent, down from about 6.5 percent in December 2015, according to the Employment Department data. In December 2007, the rate was a little more than 6 percent.

The state unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in December, also reaching pre-recession levels of a little more than 5 percent in December 2007.

From December 2015 to December 2016, Linn County’s private sector gained 560 jobs, while the public sector also gained 400 jobs, said Workforce Analyst Will Summers.

After massive declines in 2008, Linn County has steadily gained private-sector jobs since mid-2013 and in most months since late 2011. Public-sector growth has been consistent since mid-2014, with a brief dip in mid-2015.

The manufacturing industry led private-sector employment gains during the year, with the addition of 290 jobs, he said.

Construction added 250 jobs, while Linn County lost 100 jobs in financial activities and 170 in professional and business services.

The leisure and hospitality industries lost employment from November to December in 2016, similar to what happens in most Oregon counties that time of year, Williams said, but the industry showed a positive increase over the year, with the entire Mid-Valley area – Linn, Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties – gaining 240 jobs; Linn County’s increased by 30.

Gains in the public sector were led by local education, with 240 new jobs.

Turnover rates fell during the last recession to about 8 percent and remained low until the economy began to improve, Summers said. The rates for all sectors combined in the Mid-Valley and the state have a similar trend line, but at the state level, about 9.5 percent, manufacturing turnover rates were lower than in the Mid-Valley, about 9.8 percent.

“This is due to the structure of manufacturing in the Mid-Valley,” Summers said. “Food and beverage manufacturing, the lowest-paying manufacturing sector, is 18 percent of statewide manufacturing while it represents 31 percent of Mid-Valley manufacturing.”

From September 2015 to the December 2016, total private employment in the Mid-Valley has averaged above 180,000. The estimate for September 2016 was 188,570 employed in Linn, Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties in the private sector.

The estimates for 2016 annual average employment for this sector is 182,960, or almost 4 percent higher than 2015. This is also the third year in a row with annual average private sector employment gains of almost 4 percent.

Across the state, most job openings were for full-time and permanent positions, meaning that employers faced challenges finding workers as the unemployment rate remained near record lows.

Employers reported difficulty filling 64 percent of vacancies, most often citing a lack of applicants. Healthcare and social assistance reported the most vacancies, 10,200. The average hourly wage for those jobs was $16.97, and some 21 percent required education beyond high school. Two out of five vacancies were in the Portland Metro area.