No one would mistake the peaceful La Grande area for booming Bend, but Union County has quietly been growing too. Nonfarm employment in the county reached 10,550 in 2007, a record high. Development of the Elkhorn Valley Wind Farm and other projects created a 19% surge in construction jobs last year. Elsewhere, the health-services industry added workers to staff local residential care facilities. Retail businesses also did their fair share of new hiring. However, prospects for 2008 are more restrained. Construction is substantially complete on the wind farm, so job-count momentum from that event has passed. Eastern Oregon University is confronting layoffs as part of an institutional reorganization. Finally, Union County, like much of Oregon, could be hurt by the federal government’s failure to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which shared federal revenues to help finance rural schools and roads.
Jason Yohannan, regional economist
WorkSource Oregon Employment Department
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