Jobs numbers are up, but could be higher

    Tourism-related and construction jobs boosted employment totals in June as Jackson County payrolls grew by 210 jobs, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Accommodation and food services added 240 employees in June, pushing its 12-month gain to 410, while construction tacked on 180 jobs last month, giving the industry a 240-employee gain for the year.

    The county's seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 4.4 percent in June, up from 4.2 percent in May, but improved from the 6.1 percent mark of June 2016.

    "We're seeing a normal trend of ramping up summer staffing," said Travel Southern Oregon Executive Director Brad Niva. "However, there seems to be a shortage of workers in the hotel and restaurant industry, and it's challenging people."

    In other words, employers could have added to their payrolls had there been applicants.

    Niva recently returned from a trip to British Columbia and Alberta, where he found scenarios similar to what he sees in Jackson County.

    "If you are Fred Wickman at Prospect Hotel, as a business owner, you're working eight days a week and 30 hours a day," Niva said. "You're really stretched, be it hotel housekeeping, a wait staff or front desk staff."

    Visiting Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise and Jasper National Park, Niva said he found "Help Wanted" signs everywhere, but with an added twist in rural areas.

    "In mountain towns it was "Help Wanted; housing provided," Niva said. "They know their workers are looking at a housing shortage as well."

    Niva has a hunch that, similar to what construction-industry employers were finding a year ago, tourism businesses are losing employees to the marijuana industry.

    "I don't have any data to confirm it," he said. "But my gut feeling is that the cannabis industry has taken a big chunk of the workforce of people who used to work in the restaurant industry."

    Manufacturing added 110 jobs in June, making up for recent declines, and is now 20 positions ahead of where it was a year ago.

    Professional and business services added 60 positions; mining and logging gained 40; and transportation, warehousing and utilities added 30 paychecks.

    With school out, education, health and social assistance saw declines.

    Oregon Employment Department regional economist Guy Tauer reported county employment grew 2.4 percent over the past year.

    — Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter at, on Facebook at

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