Unemployed? In rural Oregon, you're not alone

man looking at newspaper

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Unemployment in some rural Oregon counties is getting worse rather than better despite signs of recovery elsewhere in the nation.

The worst jobless rate statewide in September was in Crook County at 19 percent — just under the Depression peak of 21.3 percent nationally in 1934.

Lane County's 11 percent unemployment rate was up slightly from August, while neighboring Benton County, home to Corvallis, had the state's lowest unemployment rate at 7.1 percent.

Douglas County posted 15.4 percent, and Coos County was at 13.2 percent. The statewide average was 10.6 percent.

Douglas and Crook counties are among six counties suffering from unemployment rates over 15 percent last month. Five of those are in the high desert east of the Cascade Range, The Oregonian reported.

Other rural areas of the state were not faring well, either.

In southern Oregon, Jackson County's unemployment rate jumped to 13.5 percent for September, exceeding the Medford area's seasonally adjusted levels throughout the current recession.

"We're right back to where we were a year ago," said Carolyn Eagan, an Oregon Employment Department regional economist in Bend, where many residents feel they can't move away to find work.

The jobless rate jumped from 14.6 percent in August to 15.5 percent in September in Deschutes County and the Bend area.

"We have people in Deschutes County who are just stuck, because they own a house and they can't sell it for what they owe on it," Eagan said.

The numbers released Monday show a state buoyed mostly by Willamette Valley and Columbia River Gorge counties, with the bulk of the population.

Employment in those areas has kept the statewide jobless rate at 10.6 percent, still among the worst in the nation and a full percentage point above the U.S. unemployment rate of 9.6 percent in September.

Both central and southern Oregon also have been affected by the downturn in the neighboring California economy, which dipped to 12.4 percent in September. In the past, both those regions of Oregon experienced growth when California retirees surged north to spend on houses, second homes and vacations.

Counties in those regions also have been hit by the wood-products industry downturn, said David Cooke, an Oregon Employment Department economist.

Nikki Jones, owner of Express Employment Professionals in Medford and Grants Pass, said the Great Recession has been by far the worst in terms of both unemployment and the overall economy during her 14 years in the temporary help agency business.

She said her temp agency is setting records as business increases, a pattern that usually precedes economic recovery, but she sees a negative trend this time.

Jones said she continues placing low-wage temps with companies that don't follow through with permanent hiring.

"Employers are utilizing temp staffing much longer than in the past," she said.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.