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Columbia Gorge Labor Market Summary

Click here to view regional employment, wage, labor market, and workforce trends.

The Mid-Columbia region trends show a relatively strong workforce with Wasco, Sherman, Hood River, Gilliam and Wheeler Counties all posting at or below average unemployment rates. The graph below, taken from WorkSource Oregon’s December newsletter, details the relative success of Wasco and Hood River Counties compared to state averages. Recent gains in manufacturing, educational and health services, and retail trade contributed to below average unemployment.

Columbia Gorge Graph showing an increase in Nonfarm Employment from 2000 to 2018

Additional Regional Workforce Resources

Gorge Works Internship Program

Across the nation, businesses are reporting a shortage of workers with good work habits and the skills to meet the needs of today’s workplace.

The Port of The Dalles and other economic development agencies in the Columbia Gorge have been hearing the same message from businesses in the Port Industrial Park: Good, living-wage jobs are going unfilled in our area because job candidates are not finding their way to the business’ door.

Meanwhile, job candidates with the potential to learn those skills and work at jobs with career potential are underemployed in minimum wage jobs or part-time jobs with limited benefits and limited future prospects.

And while the message to people entering the workforce is often that they must have at least a bachelor’s degree to build a career, many of the skills jobs available here in the Gorge — and across the nation — don’t require that much training. “The United States has 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree.” (Matt Krupnick, The Hechenger Report, PBS)

Valuable skills can be obtained through community college or trade school, certificate programs, apprenticeships, or even on-the-job training.

The goal of Gorge Works is to bring together potential workers with potential employers for a meaningful work experience that can help career seekers learn more about employment opportunities and help employers identify good potential employers.

The Port of The Dalles has taken the lead in organizing the first year of Gorge Works with the help of many community partners, including some of the area’s largest employers and several economic development interests. (See the list on our home page.)

A selection of the businesses will host paid work experiences during the Summer of 2018 in key areas of their industries. Leading up to that period, Gorge Works is promoting these opportunities in nearby schools and colleges, and we’re spreading the word in the hope that people looking for a career change may also be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

In addition, we will be working with our partners to offer weekly professional development workshops. These workshops will focus on improving the critical skills needed to be a good worker and a well-rounded individual. They will be hosted at various employer worksites and provide an opportunity for participants to learn about opportunities beyond their location.

We are in our opening year, refining our process as we go. Based on the level of success we see this first year, we plan to expand in coming years so that we may make a significant contribution to building a stronger Columbia Gorge workforce.

If you would like to learn more about Gorge Works, go to our website,