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State economy sputters along

Oregon’s jobless rate has remained relatively static at 7 percent for nearly three fiscal quarters, causing some trepidation among legislators and economists about the ability for Oregon’s economy to recover.

Losses in high tech industries have caused an increase in returning and graduate students at PSU, and bouts of layoffs.

Despite the economic turmoil Erik Swanson, director of marketing for Barrett Business Services, Inc., cites numerous Oregon businesses looking to hire new employees.

“Whether you’re 22-years-old and leaving school, or you’re 42 with experience, you’re going to get what you put into it, you have to work to find a job,” he said.

“The death of tech has been grossly exaggerated; Intel is still hiring people,” Swanson said.

He points to recession-proof industries like food production, construction, mortgage and pharmaceuticals as examples of industries looking for new-hires during the storm.

“Food processing food packing, the sauces the meats the breads the cookies,” Swanson continued. “Wineries, beer, the microbrew industry and the distributor store direct companies, these are companies that continue to see growth.”

Manufacturing has been spotty in Oregon, and continues to see successes and failures.

Many companies tied to the building of houses are seeing growth during the recession. Swanson used Milgard Windows as an example of a successful manufacturing company.

“Milgard windows is building a huge manufacturing plant in Tualatin,” he said.

In addition, companies dealing with the economic side of homebuilding are seeing growth.

Mortgage companies and financial institutions dealing with loans are both doing well.

Swanson also points to accounting as a growing industry, following scandals at Worldcom and Enron.

“Accounting schools are being flooded with students right now,” Swanson said.

Dee Thompson, PSU career center director, agrees that the job market has changed due to Oregon’s faltering economy, but iterated that college grads have the upper hand.

“When the job market is really good students are finding jobs in a month or two,” Thompson said.

When the economy worsens, students can expect that search to take a little longer.

“It’s not that they won’t find a job, they just need to be more resourceful,” she said.

“People shouldn’t feel that [the market] is hopeless, it isn’t,” Thompson said.

Thompson doesn’t believe comparing the current job market to that of the late ’90s, is realistic.

“That was the anomaly, that was not real,” she said.

Les Swanson, general manager of APA Employment Agency, Inc., agrees.

He sees the current economic turmoil as a correction of the overspending seen during the later part of the last decade.

“We’ve just overspent and now we’re paying for it,” Les Swanson said.

He sees current wage deflation hurting mainly middle-income families, with minimum wage laws setting the entry-level wage higher and increased pressure from shareholders forcing out middle-management, companies are losing the middle class of workers.

“Working families are getting crushed right now,” he said.

Pocketed inflation, wage deflation and a lack of many industry-wide trends isn’t anything new for Oregon, according to Les Swanson, the difference between this downturn and those of the past is the huge boom that preceded it.

“Our economy is like an old lawnmower, it sputters along but it refuses to die, it doesn’t run very well either,” Les Swanson said.