The latest news about the economy of Wallowa County was underscored in bold type in the latest edition of Eastern Oregon Labor Trends, a monthly report issued by regional economist Jason Yohannan of the Oregon Employment Department.
"This is Wallowa County's lowest unemployment rate in 11 years," Yohannan stated in his November report.
Yohannan was referring to the 4.3 percent unemployment rate for the month of September, the most recent month covered by the report, which covers Baker, Grant, Malheur, Union, and Wallowa counties.
"Readers who may be utterly bewildered by the preceding sentence should be forgiven, particularly in light of the fact that Wallowa County's job market has been in decline for two, possibly going on three, consecutive years," said Yohannan.
The regional economist attributed the extraordinarily low unemployment rate to two factors: 1) the seasonality of Wallowa County's economy, and 2) the exodus of people from the work force.
"Lots of job opportunities open up here in the far northeast corner of Oregon during the county's all-too-brief high season," Yohannan said, referring to the economy which peaks in the late summer and early fall due to agricultural harvesting and tourism.
The other factor, he said, is dozens of unemployed people have more than likely left the county. He noted that the county's total work force has declined to 3,376 individuals.
"You won't find another September with a smaller labor force in Wallowa county unless you care to look all the way back to the late 1970s," he said.
The September jobless figure was down from 5 percent in August, with only 144 individuals without work. Sectors which posted month-over-month gains included transportation and government. Sectors which gave up jobs included wholesale and retail trade and services. Other sectors were unchanged, including lumber and wood products, which accounted for 130 jobs, construction, which also accounted for 130 jobs, and finance, insurance, and real estate which held steady at 110 jobs.
Of the six eastern Oregon counties covered by the report, only Union County had a lower unemployment rate in September at 3.9 percent. The other counties posted the following rates: Baker County 6.3 percent, Grant County 5.4 percent, Harney County 6.3 percent, Malheur County 5.6 percent.