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Nearly A Decade After Recession, Rural Oregon Still Recovering

<p>The Malheur County Enterprise is located in Vale, Oregon.</p>

Jo Munday/Flickr


The Malheur County Enterprise is located in Vale, Oregon.

The Oregon Employment Department released a report this week that shows the economy of rural Oregon lags behind the metro areas in a big way.

The report states that while unemployment is near record lows in some Oregon cities, it’s still hard to find a well-paying job in places like Malheur or Lake counties.

State regional economist Damon Runberg said that while cities like Portland are in expansion mode, much of Oregon is still in recovery from the Great Recession.

"If you zoom in on just the 23 rural counties in the state, we find that the employment levels there are still 3 percent below peak employment before the recession began," Runberg said.

Runberg said because rural areas have less diverse economies than metro areas, they tend to be more vulnerable to economic shocks.

A big challenge for remote communities is transportation infrastructure.

"We have a lumber mill here — we have one left — and for them to get their product out of the area and to their customers can can be very challenging," said Ginger Casto, a rural development specialist in Lake County.

The report noted limited infrastructure can make it hard for small communities to recruit new businesses.

In rural Oregon, the fastest growing sector of the economy is the tourism and hospitality industry. Those jobs don't always pay as well as those in say, the timber industry.

"Every time we gain a job it doesn't mean that we replace a job that we lost in the recession," Runberg said. "We lost a lot of high-wage jobs and we gained a lot of low-wage jobs. So there's a real disparity not just in the recovery but also in the types of jobs being added back."

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amanda Peacher