Area's recovery is behind rest of state, says economist

Economic growth continues to lag in the Rogue Valley, according to the latest regional economic index by the University of Oregon, which was released Wednesday.

The Rogue Valley area was the lone holdout, with other regions of the state showing growth at or above their average rates, said Tim Duy, an economist at the University of Oregon.

Overall, though, Oregon is adding jobs

Portland Radio Project

A new federal report shows Oregon with job growth among the fastest in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only North Dakota and Florida added more jobs in 2013.

Portland Radio Project news partner Oregon Public Broadcasting reports jobs were added throughout most sectors — but not in banking, insurance and real estate; those sectors did not see gains. Government jobs held steady.

"The jobs recovery that we've been waiting to happen is finally here," Nick Beleiciks, a state employment economist, told OPB. "It still doesn't mean things are great in all areas or that things are going great for everybody, but that strong job growth that we've been waiting for coming out of the recession is finally occurring."

"The rebound in that area remains tepid in comparison to previous growth," he said.

Housing construction has not returned to anywhere near previous levels in either Salem or the Rogue Valley, and a dearth of building permits drags down the index number.

"There is a two-fold reason for the persistent weakness in the Rogue Valley," Duy said.

"Housing remains muted, reflecting some of the migration dynamics. There just haven't been as many people moving in as we saw before the recession."

The second, he said, was an unemployment rate that remains well above state and national figures.

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Jackson County had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 9.1 percent in December.

Data culled for the index was from November, when the jobless rate was 9.3 percent — a five-year low at that point.

"There's underlying improvement since the end of 2012, but the unemployment rate in the region is still a little bit elevated, and that's putting additional weight on the index."

Duy said manufacturing here is improving, as it is in many parts of the state.

The lack of snow may hurt Rogue Valley hiring, but it won't have nearly the impact here as it will in Bend, he said.

Duy will be among the speakers at today's Southern Oregon Business Conference, scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Inn at the Commons, across from Lithia Motors headquarters on Riverside Avenue.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge.

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