Hood River County is at its lowest unemployment rate in over five years

The Oregon Employment Department has released its October unemployment figures that show Hood River County has not only one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, but its lowest rate in over five years.

The county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.8 percent for the months of September and October mark the first time since August 2008 unemployment has gone below 6 percent. October’s numbers put Hood River as the county with the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state, just a tenth of a point above Benton County’s 5.7 percent seasonally adjusted rate. Without seasonal adjustments, Hood River County’s unemployment falls to 4.6 percent — the lowest unemployment rate by half a point.

“In the case of Hood River, man, your unemployment rate was pretty low,” said Damon Runberg, Central Oregon regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department. “It’s really great to see that.”

The adjusted unemployment rate for the state of Oregon is 7.7 percent, which is slightly higher than the national average of 7.3 percent. However, Runberg noted that unemployment rates may actually be even lower than what is listed. He explained that unemployment rates are calculated by analyzing the results of phone surveys and October’s survey was conducted during one of the weeks of the federal government shutdown. Runberg said numerous “non-essential” federal government employees who were furloughed during the shutdown identified themselves as unemployed, which inflated rates for that month.

Hood River’s unemployment rate hasn’t changed since September, but is down almost a whole point from October 2012’s rate of 6.7 percent. During the recession, Runberg said the county’s unemployment peaked and held at 8.4 percent for the majority of 2010.

Despite the positive growth, Hood River County isn’t adding jobs as quickly as other counties, but Runberg says the “big job gains” are coming from counties that also lost a lot more jobs during the economic meltdown of the late 2000s.

Hood River County’s slower rate of growth stems in part from the fact industries that were hit hard in the recession, construction in particular, don’t have as large of a presence in Hood River as they do in other counties around the state, according to Runberg. He said the county is thriving due to “really high ag employment” and called the tourism and hospitality sector “the big winner” of the county economy, which added 110 jobs since October 2012. Surprisingly, the transportation, warehouse, and utilities sector grew from 200 to 250 jobs over the past year — a statistic Runberg called “astronomical.” Another promising sign is the addition of more manufacturing jobs.

Before the bottom fell out of the U.S. housing market in 2007, Hood River County was hovering at around 4.5 percent unemployment. Runberg calculated that Hood River County “at the current rate of recovery should hit (4.5 percent) by the end of 2014.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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