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Fires may have toasted hospitality jobs

It may be a while before we know the full impact of the region's wildfires on the local economy, but preliminary estimates from the Oregon Employment Department show a drop of about 190 jobs in leisure and hospitality during August.

"That’s likely where the largest impact from the fire smoke was felt," said regional economist Guy Tauer. "It may also have impacted retail trade as people likely were out and about less, shopping and spending less during the worst of the smoke."

Tauer said it would be a few months before economists can parse employer payroll tax records to see the depth of the fire damage on the local economy.

In general, Jackson County's labor force put some dents in the "Help Wanted" listings, but many roles remained unfilled, while some job seekers couldn't find the right match.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday that the county's seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 5.1 percent, up from 4.7 percent in July but down from 6.1 percent from a year earlier. The local workforce grew by 370 to 104,966 in August, while there were just 192 additional hires overall.

"Certainly, we have been making solid employment gains in recent months and years, finally recovering jobs lost during the recession," Tauer said. "But the industry growth that has brought the improvement feels like a better balance during the most recent expansion than the housing boom-fueled expansion during the mid-2000s."

Tauer pointed to broad-based gains in construction, manufacturing, professional and business services, health care and social assistance, and leisure and hospitality. On the other hand, higher-paying local industries seeing declines or flat growth lines include information and financial activities.

"Retail trade is showing an over-the-year decline currently, but I would expect some of that weakness to resolve once September through December data are in," he said. "It may just be a timing issue with seasonal hiring in retail trade this year."

The county's job growth rate slowed to 0.9 percent, with retail accounting for just 150 new jobs in August after boosting local employment by nearly 1,000 paychecks in August 2016.

Cannabis industry jobs have been shifted from "other services" to retail trade.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.