The mid-Willamette Valley’s economy has been humming along for nearly three years now, said an expert with the Oregon Employment Department.
“We’re definitely seeing low unemployment in both (Linn and Benton) counties and there are no real signs of broad-based trouble or anything like that out there. The biggest problem continues to be for employers trying to fill jobs,” said Patrick O’Connor, state regional economist.
Linn County’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% in March, falling from 5.1% in February, according to state data released this week.
A few years ago, this would have been a new record and cause for celebration. Now, ho-hum, it’s just another month.
“Any time unemployment is below 6% in Linn County, it’s really good,” O’Connor said.
Linn County’s unemployment rate hasn’t edged above 6% since April 2016.
Benton County’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4% in March, and that, once again, was the lowest rate in the state.
O’Connor said that one of Benton County’s benchmarks for strong economic performance is an unemployment rate of 4%. Corvallis and surrounding areas haven’t been above that mark since September 2016.
Job growth, however, has suffered, because even if employers had positions to fill, they haven’t been able to find workers. Some employers at a career fair at Linn-Benton Community College last week complained about that scenario.
“The tight labor market has contributed to some of the slowing job growth,” O’Connor said. “We’re not adding people into the labor force as quickly as we had been.”
Linn County’s job growth stood at 1.6% over the past year, with 720 new workers added. Benton County added 140 jobs for an increase of 0.3%.
Oregon and the United States both had job growth of 1.7% in the last year.
The unemployment rates for Oregon overall, 4.4%, and the United States, 3.8%, remained unchanged this March.