Crook County has been in Oregon headlines for most of the last four years. Most recently, the county took center stage when Apple announced a land purchase, building proposal and subsequent commitment to creating at least 35 jobs in Prineville, the county's only city. The construction and eventual employment gain is a welcome follow up to Facebook's continuing data center development. Good news is especially important in a county that has been plagued by the state's highest unemployment rate and a deteriorating employment situation associated with the tumble of the housing market and the decline of the manufacturing industry.
In addition to the good employment news resulting from computer giants' data storage needs, there's been a local government employment revival in Crook County.
Local government employment peaked in May 2008 with 930 jobs, which made up 13 percent of the county's total employment. The largest part of local government employment is at the county's schools. That month, local government education made up 55 percent of local government employment.
Due to budget troubles, the 2008-2009 school year ended early in Crook County.
All district teachers were laid off and unemployment spiked to 18.6 percent, seven percentage points higher than the state rate. In June 2009, local government in Crook County reported 900 jobs. This was down slightly from the year before, but well above the historical average for June (850 jobs). When the school year began again in September, local government reported just 840 jobs. In September 2010, the county had only 790 local government jobs.
This school year (2011-2012) there is a very different story to be told. The school district made a concerted effort to bring back as many employees as possible. By the fall of 2011, the district reportedly rehired every employee (who wanted to come back to work) who was laid off in the previous years. The employment numbers for local government in the county show this remarkable employment growth. In October 2011, local government in Crook County was at a decade high: 950 jobs!
Crook County still has a long way to go to regain its pre-recession job peak, but every small employment gain gets the county one step closer to that goal.
The county received more good news in April. The county annual average wage in 2011 was $36,993.This is first time in recent history when Crook County average pay exceeded the annual average pay of Deschutes County, it's richer and more populous neighbor.
Next month: 2011 Covered Employment and Wages for Region 10 and Region 11