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Job growth lags in rural Oregon

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Report: Young talent particularly hard to retain in southeastern areas

SALEM — Job growth in Oregon's rural areas — particularly southeastern Oregon — is projected to trail behind the rest of the state until 2024, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Oregon's jobs are expected to grow 14 percent between 2014 and 2024, more than double the projected national rate for that period.

But in Harney and Malheur counties, the number of jobs is expected to increase merely 3 percent until 2024. That's compared to 6 and 7 percent in neighboring counties to the north and west, which is a rate on par with expected job growth nationally.

Counties near the central Columbia River Gorge, meanwhile, are expected to see 11 percent job growth until 2024.

While Oregon as a whole has made up the jobs it lost during the Great Recession, that's not the case for many of the state's rural areas. But the future may be brighter for them: Both are projected to exceed the country's jobs growth rate until 2024.

Construction, health care and professional and business services jobs are likely to grow the fastest. The high-tech sector also is likely to continue growing.

Filling those new jobs may be a challenge in rural Oregon, though. Some employers in rural areas say they struggle to attract and retain young talent.