LA GRANDE — Union County’s unemployment rate saw little change from June to July, but still is trending in the right direction.

The rate for July was 10.2%, according to the Oregon Employment Department, a slight downtick from 10.4% in June. That is still nearly 8.5 points down from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns, when the county reached 18.6% — one of the highest in the state at the time.

The number of continued unemployment claims in the county also decreased slightly from the prior month, dropping from 639 to 603. That number is still about 2.7 times higher than before the pandemic began, but down more than 750 claims from the peak in April of 1,368.

First-time claims, meanwhile, are at, and even below, pre-coronavirus levels. After 118 combined claims during the first two weeks of July, the county reported 28 and 23, respectively, the last two reports from July. The numbers are even lower in August, as the reports for the weeks ending the 1st, 8th and 15th were 18, 21 and 16, respectively.

Union County citizens between age 25-44 make up nearly half (293) of the continuous claims in the county, and nearly 25% of the claims (149) come from individuals in accommodation and food services. Ninety-five of the claims are in manufacturing and 89 are in health care and social assistance.

The total nonfarm employment in the county decreased slightly to 9,670 jobs, which is still more than 800 below the 10,510 in March before the pandemic.

Baker County’s rate dropped 0.6 points to 10.3% in the month of July as the county had 70 more nonfarm positions filled and is now at 5,130. Its rate is down almost 3 points from a height of 13.2% during the pandemic.

More people in Baker County came off the continued claims roll as the number dropped from 382 to 328. The number of first-time claims is also near pre-COVID-19 levels, with a combined 42 claims filed the last three weeks. There were 146 continued claims in the age 25-44 demographic, the highest in the county, and accommodation and food services account for 100 of the claims.

Leisure and hospitality saw the biggest jump in new jobs from June to July, increasing from 500 to 560.

Wallowa County saw the biggest decrease in unemployment rate of the tri-county area for July, dropping 0.8 points and moving below 10% to 9.8% while seeing an increase of 50 jobs to 2,590. The county saw a decrease of about 30% in continued claims and is down to 112, just above pre-pandemic levels.

Health care and social assistance make up almost one-fourth (26) of the continued claims in Wallowa County. Leisure and hospitality saw a bump from 250 jobs in June to 290 in July, the most in the county. That number, though, is still about 30% lower than the county has averaged in summer months in the industry in recent years. The county has not reported a week with 10 or more new first-time claims since early July.

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