Albany has tied with Salem for ranking the highest among metropolitan areas for regaining jobs in the state, according to a media release from the Oregon Employment Department. Albany has regained nine out of ten jobs lost in spring 2020.
“It has surprised me how much Albany has bounced back considering the losses in the manufacturing industry,” Patrick O'Connor, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department, said.
O’Connor added that the leisure and hospitality industry has recovered better in Albany than other metropolitan areas and has almost reached a full recovery when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Corvallis, on the other hand, is “further from a full jobs recovery” according to OED. Along with Portland and Eugene, Corvallis has regained around two-thirds of the jobs lost during the recession.
O’Connor said Oregon State University plays a crucial role in Benton County’s ability to bounce back.
“(The county) has been closing the gaps,” he said. “But they are digging out of a deeper hole.”
OSU is a huge employer for the county. Job cuts at the university during the pandemic have made an impact on Benton County’s ability to fully recover. However, O’Connor said having school in session and an influx of students potentially looking for jobs can help boost numbers.
Oregon’s unemployment rate saw improvements and decreased from 5.2% in July to 4.9% for August. All but two of Oregon’s 36 counties saw over-the-month declines in their unemployment rates.
Unemployment rates in Linn and Benton counties have also continued to drop in the month of August, according to the state.
Benton County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August was 3.8%. This is down from 4.1% in July. According to the state, Benton County’s employment gains in August were larger than normal and Benton County had one of the lowest unemployment rates for the month.
O’Connor said the number of residents with bachelor’s degrees is high in Benton County, so this usually contributes to a lower unemployment rate.
“Even when we see steeper job cuts, we still get a lower unemployment rate,” he said.
Nonfarm employment increased by 560 jobs even though a decrease of 540 jobs would be normally expected for this time of year. However, seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment is still 4.8% below the pre-pandemic levels in Feb. 2020.
Leisure and hospitality employment also saw gains in the county. The industry has grown 10.2% over the past year. However, employment still remains down 21% from its pre-recession level in February 2020.
The private sector gained 200 jobs with professional and business services adding 100 in August. This is up 2.4%. Meanwhile, mining, logging and construction added 60 jobs, making for a gain of 4.1%.
The public sector also saw an increase in employment. Local government education, which includes school districts and OSU, added 340 jobs. Federal government employment remains unchanged while state government was up 10 jobs.
Linn County also saw a decrease in its unemployment rate. According to the news release, the county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.4%, down from 5.9% in July.
“Over the past five to six months, the U.S., Oregon and mid-valley have been adding employment at a brisk pace,” O’Connor said.
He added that Linn County has seen robust hiring in a number of industries recently and is within 400 jobs of reaching pre-pandemic levels.
Like its neighboring county, Linn saw larger gains than normal in August. Nonfarm employment increased by 710 jobs even though employment would be expected to decrease by 380. Employment is now 0.9% below the pre-pandemic level.
The private sector had the largest employment gains for the month. Transportation, warehousing and utilities in particular increased 7.6%. Private education and health services added 170 jobs, an increase of 2.5%.
Retail trade and manufacturing saw losses for August.
Meanwhile, the public sector added 110 jobs. Local government education gained 110 jobs while federal government employment declined and state government stayed the same.
With COVID-19 still posing a problem for businesses, O’Connor said it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen in the coming months. He noted that there is a tight labor market right now and it can be difficult for businesses to find the right candidate for their jobs.
In normal circumstances, O’Connor said there is usually around two to two-and-a-half unemployed people for every job opening. During previous recessions it has been as high as six unemployed individuals for every job opening. As of now, there is one unemployed person for every job opening.
“This recession is really different,” O’Connor said. “During the Great Recession, the bigger metropolitan areas like Portland saw faster recovery. This one has been the exact opposite. Smaller metro areas are recovering faster.”
Maddie Pfeifer covers public safety for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or Madison.Pfeifer@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @maddiepfeifer_