What's behind Oregon's lowest unemployment rate?

What's behind Oregon's lowest unemployment rate?

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Here's the good news: manufacturing jobs are down 12 percent in Benton County.

That's good news?

"Normally that wouldn't be good," said labor analyst Pat O'Connor with the Oregon Employment Department, "unless you were comparing it to Lane County where it's down 26 percent."

The overall unemployment rate in Lane County hit 13.6 percent in April, and neighboring Linn County is even worse at 15.3 percent.

But in nearby Benton County, the unemployment rate in April was 8.9 percent, the lowest in Oregon.

Down is down, though: 540 Benton County manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the past year, 230 professional services jobs are gone, and 260 jobs disappeared in logging and construction.

On the bright side are the jobs at Oregon State University, but a lot of that rides on the state budget.

"The other shoe will drop at some point," Benton County Commissioner Jay Dixon warns. "How dramatically that will be, we don't know yet."

Meanwhile, those in charge of growing the new jobs in the new economy think they are on the right track.

"Our focus is on family wage jobs,  jobs that pay their own way, jobs that can pay for housing and health care," explains Mysty Rusk, President of the Benton-Corvallis Chamber Coalition.

Rusk said the goal is to give entrepreneurs the best shot at making it.

That includes new companies like Perpetua, which makes thermal electric generators.

CEO Nick Fowler said it's a good time to build a business "because there are tremendous capabilities available in the labor market right now, and we offer one of those opportunities."