Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Oregon's Unemployment Rate Falls to Five-Year Low
by David Cooke
Published Nov-22-2013

 
Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in October, its lowest point since October 2008 when the rate was also 7.7 percent. The rate was 7.8 percent in September and 8.1 percent in August. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate continued to decline in October, reaching 61.2 percent; this was a record low for this series, which started in January 1976.

Oregon cut 500 jobs in October, after adding 3,300 in September and 5,600 in August. These nonfarm payroll employment figures are seasonally adjusted.

Taking the last few months as a whole, the latest labor market numbers reflect a gradually accelerating pace of economic expansion in Oregon, with overall modest employment gains during the most recent 12 months. Since October 2012, seasonally adjusted payroll employment is up 30,700 jobs or 1.9 percent. The private sector grew fairly rapidly, expanding 33,300 jobs or 2.5 percent. This gain was offset by a decline in government of 2,600 jobs, or 0.9 percent.

Over-the-year gains were strongest in construction (+6,500 jobs, or 9.3%) and in two major industries that each grew by 3.6 percent: professional and business services (+7,000 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (+6,200 jobs). Financial activities (-1,100 jobs or -1.2 percent) was the only major private-sector industry to lose jobs in the past 12 months.

Construction stands out as an engine of economic growth this year. Gains in construction and residential investment bolstered national gross domestic product in recent quarters. The job gains in Oregon provided a boost to Oregon's economy through increased construction wages and other direct and indirect links that result from increased construction activity.

Oregon's seasonally adjusted employment in construction grew by 2,100 in September and added an additional 800 jobs in October. This measure of employment stood at 76,400 in October, which was a substantial gain from the post-recession low of 67,200 during several months of 2010. Recent job gains in construction are evidence of a pickup in demand for residential building. Construction employment averaged below 70,000 for each of the past three calendar years.

Leisure and hospitality pulled back over the past two months from its recent rapid growth rate. Restaurants, bars, motels and other establishments cut 1,800 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in September, and then added back 600 in October. Leisure and hospitality added a total of 6,200 jobs since October 2012. This is an industry operating at near-record levels of employment. The 178,100 October jobs are up from the recent low point of 160,800 in December 2009, and above the pre-recession peak of close to 175,000 in early 2008.

Government employment continued to lag. Federal government dropped 800 jobs since October 2012. Local government cut 2,600 over that period, with each of its three component industries down. State government did add 500 jobs over the year; at 81,600, it was close to the same October figure as in the prior three years.

Financial activities was the one major private-sector industry to cut jobs over the past year. The finance and insurance portion cut 1,100 jobs since October 2012, while the real estate industry was up slightly. Overall, financial activities has been on a downward trajectory for more than six years. What appeared to be an upturn during the first half of the year reversed itself, with the current seasonally adjusted employment figure of 89,100 at its lowest level since late 1996.