Total employment in Lake County has been in decline since 2006 when the county saw its pre-recession employment peak. In 2007, the county had 2,360 jobs. In the mid-1990s, the county had a few more jobs; the height was in 1994 when there were 2,540 jobs in the county.
Between 1990 and 1994, Lake County's employment trend mirrored Oregon's (Graph 1). In 1994, 64 percent of Lake County jobs were in the private sector. The largest portion of Private-sector jobs were in manufacturing. The remaining 36 percent of all jobs, in the public sector, were largely local government jobs.
By 2007, nearly 45 percent of the county's jobs were in the public sector! One out of every five jobs in Lake County were in local government. Jobs in manufacturing made up less than 13 percent of the county's employment. The employment picture improved in Lake County more quickly than it did in other parts of the state. Lake County was one of the few counties in Oregon to show annual job growth between 2010 and 2011.
More recently, new jobs in Lake County have been scarce. Since the completion of the Ruby Pipeline in the summer of 2011, the county lost 70 jobs (-3.5%) seasonally adjusted.
The employment decline in Lake County does not appear to be as devastating as in other counties where the losses have been coupled with continued population gains. As shown in Graph 2, there has been very little population growth over the last 20 years in Lake County, easing the demand for significant job growth.
The manufacturing employment base in Lake County continues to dwindle. At the end of last year, one of the county's mills closed, eliminating up to 40 jobs. Times have definitely changed since 1994. Last month, employment in manufacturing made up just 9 percent of the county's workforce. One out of every two jobs in Lake County was in the public sector and retail is the now the county's largest private-sector employer.