“Economy’s diversity seen as plus.” That’s Sunday’s lead headline from the Bulletin’s business section. The story continues, “Deschutes county… may be well-suited to weather a recession because of its increasingly diverse economy…”

This story is not much more than a rerun of one the Bulletin first published over the summer (Regional economy is diversifying). The ironic part is that not more than a day later the Bulletin business section leads with, “For first time since 2001, key sectors see job losses.”

The story begins, “the housing market slowdown in 2007 contributed to the first simultaneous drop in jobs in Central Oregon’s construction and manufacturing sectors since 2001…” Hmmm, you think manufacturing – mostly wood products – might be related to construction and housing? Wow! I guess so!

I wonder if any of our diverse, “professional services” or “financial activities” locally may also be connected to housing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, architectural engineering, building inspection, landscape architects, interior design, environmental consulting and other services to buildings and dwellings all fall under the “professional services” category. To me, these sectors sound like they might be related to housing.

The BLS also categorizes as “financial activities,” real estate credit (aka, mortgage banking), mortgage brokers, real estate agents and appraisers. These also sound to me like they just might be real estate centric.

So the supposedly, “diverse,” employment categories of “construction,” “manufacturing,” “financial activities,” and “professional and business services,” all have something to do with real estate. Who would have thunk it?

Explain to me then, as these categories have grown in importance to the local economy over the past five years, how exactly has it diversified?

I still posit that just the opposite has occurred: the local economy has narrowed becoming more heavily dependent on real estate. And this is not a “plus,” as the Bulletin would have us believe, for an economy witnessing a real estate crash. It’s a definite liability.

On the surface, this looks to me like an editorial fiasco at the Bulletin. Sunday’s lead business story completely misleads readers with a strong bullish bent on bearish statistics (Sunday’s paper is more widely circulated, mind you). The next day a business lead story with a completely contrary take. Two lead stories in two days that totally contradict each other.

I can find only two possible explanations: either the editors at the paper are schizophrenic or they are intentionally hypocritical as they try to balance proselytizing for the real estate industry (one of their largest advertising customers) with reporting the news. You make the call.
LIV

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