Business & economy

Malheur County unemployment trends among lowest in Oregon

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Malheur County is among the lowest in the state. 

Chris Rich, eastern Oregon’s regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, said 524 people were out of work in November, up from the month before. In October, the county’s unemployment rate was 3.8% and in November, the rate increased to 4.3%. 

Rich said the unemployment rate in Malheur County is “incredibly low, historically low.” 

Nonetheless, according to, the county’s unemployment rate of 4.3% is lower than the overall state rate of 4.4% and the second lowest in eastern Oregon. 

Rich said in November 2022, Malheur County had 12,000 people employed, just 10 jobs higher than the year before. 

Rich said Malheur County’s nonfarm employment ticked up by 10 jobs this year, but the private sector shed 10 jobs, while the public sector picked up an additional 20.

As industry losses competed with industry gains, Rich said retail saw the biggest decline, down by 70 jobs over the year, while the state government added 50. Overall, Rich said total employment dipped by 20 jobs over the last year.  

“(Employment) has been pretty stable year over year,” Rich said.

The lowest unemployment rate on record in Malheur County came in 2019 when the county saw an average annual rate of 4%. 

Rich said the Employment Department does not have the full year’s data for 2022. However, he said the county is on pace to have a lower annual average in 2022 than in 2019. 

The historical long-term average unemployment average from 1990 to 2022 for Malheur County was between 7.2% and 7.3% for all months, and 7.5% for the annual average, according to Rich. 

While Malheur County’s unemployment rate ranks among the lowest in eastern Oregon, the county’s poverty rate is among the highest in the state, where one in four people live in poverty, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy. 

Rich said that according to a 2019 analysis by the Employment Department conducted, half of the jobs in Malheur County were filled by people living outside the county in neighboring Idaho or adjoining Oregon counties.

Meanwhile,  he said 36% of the county’s residents are commuting outside of the county for work as far as Nevada in some cases. 

He said people could be coming into the county to fill manufacturing jobs or to attend Treasure Valley Community College and they picked up a part-time job somewhere. He said such nuances can skew the data and the poverty and unemployment rate. For instance, he said the population at Snake River Correctional Facility is counted nto the county’s population.

“When you’re factoring in poverty,” Rich said, “(the prison population) can  actually affect your overall numbers and things like poverty.”  

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