We'd like to bring you some good news about the Central Oregon economy - really, we would - but there just isn't any out there. If it wasn't for bad news we'd have no news at all.
Yesterday the unemployment numbers for April came out, and while the statewide picture was a little brighter - or at least wasn't getting more dim - the figures for Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties were terrible. Historically terrible. Epically terrible.
The rate for the Bend metro statistical area (Deschutes County) was 15.9%, up 1.5 points from March and more than double the rate for April 2008. Jefferson stood at 16.4%, up about half a point from March and more than 7 points higher than in April 2008. And in Crook County the jobless rate was a jaw-dropping 19.9%, up 1.7 points from March and more than twice the April 2008 rate of 8.3%.
Statewide, the unemployment rate was virtually unchanged from March at 12%. That's still the second-highest in the country, trailing only Michigan.
The March data marked a pause in the steep climb of Oregon's jobless rate, but don't light up the cigars yet: Economists expect the upward trend to resume. "The Oregon [employment] department's monthly report of employment sectors showed continued weakness in the bedrock of the economy, manufacturing, as well as declines in construction, wholesale and retail trade, transportation and utilities," The Associated Press reported.
In other words, things sucked pretty much across the board. And with Bend's and Central Oregon's economy so heavily dependent on construction, there's every reason to believe our recession will be longer and deeper than the state's.
Back during the mini-boom of the mid-1990s, one of The Eye's friends commented that you could always tell when the local economy was doing well because the construction workers put magnetic signs on the sides of their pickups and started calling themselves "contractors." We guess we'll know things are looking up when we start seeing those magnetic signs again.
Meanwhile, at least we've got that glorious Central Oregon sunshine.