Wallowa County gained jobs for the second consecutive year in 2005, but total nonfarm employment has yet to fully recover from previous losses. The private sector shaped recent growth, led by an expanding mix of small retailers. So-called traditional industries, including logging (classified as “natural resources and mining” below) and manufacturing, also rallied. On the other hand, all levels of government in Wallowa County shed employees, but none more so than local government. To date, these public sector job losses have prevented the local economy from regaining its pre-recession employment peak. These losses are symptomatic of a demographic shift: Like many rural areas, the county is aging with a large share of the population nearing or reaching retirement. As families with young children are becoming rare, enrollment in the county’s public schools dwindled 20% from 2001 to 2005. Likewise, school employment has tumbled 20% since 2001.
— Jason Yohannan, regional economist,
Oregon Employment Department