Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Oregon's Unemployment Rate Falls Below 7 Percent
by David Cooke
Published Mar-25-2014

Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in February, its first time below 7.0 percent in more than five years. The last time the state's rate was lower was in August 2008 when the rate was 6.7 percent.

Oregon's unemployment rate has been steadily trending down for more than four years as the economy has recovered from the Great Recession. Recent declines were coupled with moderate employment growth as indicated by the more than 2,000 jobs added in both January and February.

In February, seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2,900 following a revised gain of 2,100 in January. February marked the 8th consecutive monthly gain. The private sector has expanded even longer; the last private-sector job loss was 20 months ago.

Manufacturing added 1,000 jobs in February when a loss of 100 is the normal seasonal pattern. The components with the largest gains were food manufacturing (+400 jobs), computer and electronic product manufacturing (+200), and transportation equipment manufacturing (+200).

Food manufacturing continued its steady expansion of the past eight years, hitting a new February record of 25,300 jobs. Gains in recent years have accelerated in most component industries with particularly rapid expansions in these three: tortilla, confectionery, and seasoning and dressing.

Construction also performed better than expected, with a gain of 1,100 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. A strong winter season has put construction up 7,000 jobs, or up nearly 10 percent since February 2013.

The bulk of construction's job gains over the year have come in two of the specialty trade contractors industries. Building finishing contractors employed 11,000 in February, which was an increase of 2,500 from February 2013. And building equipment contractors employed 21,700, an increase of 1,400 over the year.

Two industries that have added jobs lately continued to do so in February. Professional and business services added 2,100 jobs in February, continuing its trend of being one of the fastest growing industries over the last few years. Meanwhile, local government added 4,000 jobs in February, which was 1,100 more than its normal seasonal pattern. This industry - which is comprised largely of local K-through-12 schools, community colleges, city and county governments - saw substantial job losses throughout 2009 to mid-2013. But it has turned the corner and started to expand in recent months.