The labor market in Grant County has improved significantly since last year.
The unemployment rate improved more than any other county in the state, from 10.2 percent in February 2015 to 8 percent in February 2016, according to information released Monday from the Oregon Employment Department.
Grant County Economic Development Coordinator Sally Bartlett said when she came to the county about eight years ago, the unemployment rate was close to 20 percent. She said the new numbers are encouraging.
“I think it’s a good sign that we can rely on for now,” she said. “It gives us hope for the future.”
Grant County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February was the best for the month since 1990, according to the employment department.
The county gained an estimated 30 jobs over the year. Private sector gains and losses balanced out for no net change. The public sector added about 30 jobs from local and state government.
Although Grant County is still among the highest unemployment rates in the state — and much higher than the statewide rate of 4.8 percent and the national rate of 4.9 percent — Bartlett said rural economies differ from larger areas.
“These little rural communities like we’re in don’t pop back as quickly as urban areas do with a lot more opportunities,” she said. “That’s why Oregon’s unemployment rate is down, and that’s why we can’t compare ourselves to urban areas or more populated places, because it’s just different out here.”
Other Eastern Oregon counties also improved. Harney County’s unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent to 6.6 percent, and Malheur County’s rate fell from 6.9 percent to 5.6 percent.
Bartlett encouraged anyone with business ideas to stop by the Economic Development office for help with business plans and financing or technical assistance. The office is at 530 E. Main St., Suite 4, John Day.