Oregon Unemployment Rate Drops Below 9.0 Percent for the first time in Three Years


Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in December and 9.1 percent in November. Meanwhile, the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged down to 8.5 percent in December from 8.7 percent in November.

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey Data)
Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment gained 2,400 in December, following a revised loss of 1,100 in November. December job gains were led by leisure and hospitality (+2,700 jobs) and government (+1,700). Gains were offset  by losses in educational and health services (-2,200 jobs).

Leisure and hospitality added 500 jobs in December, when a loss of 2,200 is the normal seasonal pattern. This industry spiked downward sharply in October and November, but rebounded in December. Accommodation and food services grew rapidly over the past year, adding 7,300 jobs since December 2010, a gain of 5.3 percent. The rapid growth brings the sector close to its highest ever December figure, which was 148,500 jobs in December 2007.

Government cut only 3,400 jobs in December, when a loss of 5,100 would have been the normal seasonal pattern. Local government cut only 2,400 for the month, when a larger loss would have been normal. Local government education dropped 2,000, and is down 3,800 since December 2010. Severe reductions at local K through 12 school districts during June through August brought local government employment 8,800 below its comparable 2010 headcount. Since then, seasonally adjusted employment has been gradually rising, but it is still well below year-ago levels.

Federal government continues to trend downward, with the December figure of 26,700 the lowest in decades. Meanwhile, state government performed about as expected in December, with a loss of 500 jobs. State education added 1,100 jobs during the past 12 months, while the remainder of state government cut 300 over the same period.

Private educational and health services cut 2,100 jobs, when a gain of 100 is the norm for December. The industry returned from a one-month spike upward in the prior month. Over the longer term, private educational and health services has trended upward rapidly and consistently, gaining 9,100 jobs, or 3.9 percent, since December 2010. Each of this broader industry’s five published component industries has gained at least 1,100 jobs in those 12 months.

Construction performed above the normal seasonal pattern, but from a low base. It cut only 2,300 jobs in December, when a loss of 2,900 was expected due to seasonality. Most of its component industries cut jobs in December, but building equipment contractors showed a slight gain of 300 jobs.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, construction bottomed in late 2010 at about 67,000 jobs. Since then the industry has gradually inched ahead to employed 70,800 such jobs by December. This was the industry’s highest seasonally adjusted headcount since employing 71,000 in September 2009. These recent job gains are partially reflected in a slight upturn in Oregon residential building permits, which were up about 8 percent for January through November 2011 compared with the same period in 2010.

Hours and Earnings
(Establishment Survey Data)
The average workweek for Oregon manufacturing production workers spiked up to 41.5 hours in December, a gain from 38.9 in July, just five months prior. This was the highest level since 41.6 hours in July 2006. This measure of the workweek has risen rapidly over the past two and a half years and is up from the December 2010 figure of 39.2 hours.

Average earnings of all private-sector payroll employees in Oregon surged to $22.30 per hour in December from $21.89 in November. The December figure was up 64 cents per hour, or 3.0 percent, from December 2010.

(Household Survey Data)
The national unemployment rate dropped from 8.7 percent in November to 8.5 percent in December. Oregon’s December rate of 8.9 percent was 0.4 percentage point above the U.S. rate. The difference between the Oregon and the U.S. unemployment rates was not statistically significant.

The latest figures indicate that Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has been on a generally declining trend for the past two and a half years. Since reaching a high point of 11.6 percent in May and June 2009, Oregon’s rate has trended downward. At 8.9 percent in December, it is at its lowest rate since November 2008, when Oregon’s rate was 8.4 percent.

In December, 175,830 Oregonians were unemployed. This is 29,152 fewer individuals than in December 2010 when 204,982 Oregonians were unemployed.

The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the December county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Monday, January 23 and the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for January on Tuesday, February 28.

For many years, monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas were developed by Oregon Employment Department economists. These economists were also responsible for revising the initial sample-based estimates annually, based on more complete information from Oregon businesses. This revisions process is known as benchmarking.

In March 2011, responsibility for the monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas shifted to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The estimates developed by BLS are more heavily dependent on the sample of businesses and less reliant on knowledge of local economic events. They are also likely to demonstrate increased month-to-month variability.

BLS staff is also taking over responsibility for the annual benchmarking process. The results of this process will be reflected when revised data for 2010 and 2011 are released in February and March 2012.

Comments or questions should be directed to Graham Slater, Administrator of the Oregon Employment Department’s Workforce and Economic Research Division, at (503) 947-1212.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. CascadeBusNews.com • CBN@CascadeBusNews.com

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