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The following letter was submitted to the Editor of the Bend Bulletin today:

Last month the Bulletin ran an article with the prominent headline, “Regional Economy is Diversifying.” The article suggested the local economy has matured and thus grown healthier over the past six years due to a broadening of the jobs market.

A closer look at the jobs statistics, however, suggests otherwise. The article reveals that, “the largest industry gains over the [past] six-year period have been in construction, professional and business services, and education and health services.” In fact, the construction industry, which some would consider merely a component of the larger real estate industry, has nearly doubled as a percent of total jobs since 2001.

It is highly likely that the growth in “professional and business services” is closely tied to the real estate industry as well. The local real estate boom that coincided with the study period (2001-2007) surely created many “professional” jobs for real estate agents, mortgage brokers, appraisers, home inspectors and title officers along with the obvious surge in construction jobs.

For this reason, rather than a diversification of the local job market, I would suggest there has been a concentration of jobs into the real estate industry. And rather than, “securing Central Oregon’s economic health,” this narrowing of the jobs market has increased the risk to the local economy.

With the recent slowdown in the real estate market I guess we will soon find out how much the local economy has “matured” over the past six years.

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