Employment continued to grow in northeastern Oregon in June, but at a slower pace than during previous months. Reports from the state Employment Department show 68,167 people employed in the six-county region in June, up 1,129 (1.7 percent) from the 67,038 employed in June 2003.

Umatilla County

Umatilla County, with 1,174 more jobs in June, led the three counties that had employment increases. Employment in the county grew from 36,431 a year ago to 37,605 this year, up 3.2 percent. Most were farm-related jobs.

Umatilla County posted a gain of 320 nonfarm payroll jobs over the year ended this June, according to Dallas W. Fridley, Employment Department economist in Hood River. Private industry employment grew 390 jobs over the year, while government employment was down 70.

Professional and business services were Umatilla County's main job creators, adding 290 over the year that ended in June, Fridley said. That industry category includes employers such as the chemical weapons incinerator at the U.S. Army's Umatilla Chemical Depot. With incineration activities expected to begin this month, Fridley said he expects additional job growth in the category.

Durable goods manufacturing was also a strong performer over the year, gaining 150 jobs, and retail trade was up 80 to total 3,230, Fridley said. Not all private industries added jobs, however, and a few of the more notable losses since last June included food manufacturing (down 50), transportation, warehousing and utilities (down 50), wholesale trade (down 30), and leisure and hospitality (down 30).

Baker County

Second in the region, with 125 more jobs in June than in the year before, Baker County recorded employment of 6,978, up from 6,853 (1.8 percent).

"June's job gains were smaller than historical trends in Baker County would have suggested," said Jason Yohannan, Fridley's counterpart in La Grande. "Stronger-than-usual hiring in early 2004 partially explains that. Through the first half of 2004, nonfarm employment is up between 1 percent and 1.5 percent from the corresponding period in 2003. June's estimate of 5,310 nonfarm jobs is the highest since September 2002."

Morrow County

Employment grew slightly in Morrow County in June, adding 79 jobs to boost the county's total employment figure to 4,911, up 1.6 percent during the year.

Morrow County added 90 nonfarm jobs, according to Fridley, but losses in some sectors dropped the annual gain to 79.

"Total private industry employment was up 130 jobs over the 12-month period, while the public sector was down 40," he said. "Private sector gains since June 2003 were led by the trade, transportation and utilities group (up 60), in particular, the transportation, warehousing and utilities component (up 40)."

Professional and business services also posted a healthy gain, Fridley said, adding 50 jobs over the year to total 260. Manufacturing was also up for the year, increasing its total by 30 jobs to reach 810. In the government sector, he said, the local government component was down 40 jobs compared with year-ago levels. State government had a gain of 10 jobs, which was offset by a loss of 10 in federal government.

Wallowa County

Employment in Wallowa County in June was almost the same as a year ago. At 3,288 it was down only 1 from the year before.

"For the fifth consecutive month, Wallowa County's current unemployment rate is less than it was in the corresponding month of 2003," Yohannan said, noting that the local jobless rate subsided by an average of two percentage points this year.

"The tourists are back," he said." Wallowa County's leisure and hospitality industry - such businesses as restaurants, campgrounds, motels and recreation purveyors - hired an estimated 100 workers in just one month."

On an annual average basis, retail trade is Wallowa County's largest private-sector industry employer, according to Yohannan, but in the summer leisure and hospitality sometimes tops retail for worker counts. Government accounts for about one-third of Wallowa County's nonfarm jobs, he added.

Union County

Union County had 175 fewer workers in June, a drop from 12,083 a year ago to 11,908 this year, down 1.5 percent. Nonfarm employment was down 70 in the private sector and 40 in the government sector. Gains of 20 in construction and 30 in manufacturing were offset by losses in other industries.

Grant County

In Grant County, employment in June was down 2 percent from 3,550 in June 2003 to 3,477 this year. That's the bad news, but there's good news, too.

"Grant County no longer has the highest jobless rate in Oregon," Yohannan said. "Three counties - Douglas, Hood River and Linn - had June unemployment rates exceeding 9 percent."

Nonfarm employment in Grant County increased for the fourth consecutive month, he said, rising by an estimated 120 to reach 2,750. A resumption of some logging activity boosted the natural resources and mining category by 30 jobs, and seasonal hiring by the U.S. Forest Service added 30 workers to the federal government work force.

Comparing the first half of 2004 with the first half of 2003, however, job counts have been flat to slightly weaker, Yohannan said.

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