The rapid job growth in recent months may be pulling people back into the labor market. Nearly five years into this economic recovery, rapid gains in construction employment and an end to overall government job declines lend support to a more broad-based economic expansion.
Economic growth accelerated in March, with many of the major industries adding at least 1,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. Construction shot up by 1,800, following a gain of 1,300 in February. Leisure and hospitality bounced back from a one-month dip, adding 2,100 in March. In addition, five industries added close to 1,000 jobs: retail trade (+1,200 jobs), financial activities (+900), professional and business services (+1,200), private educational services (+800), and health care and social assistance (+1,400). The only industry showing a large loss in March was wholesale trade, which shed 1,000 jobs.
Over the past 12 months, Oregon's economic expansion was rapid and broad-based. Seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment grew by 46,300 jobs, or 2.8 percent since March 2013 as each major industry added jobs. The private sector added 43,700 jobs, or 3.2 percent, while government added 2,600 jobs, or 0.9 percent. Within the private sector, construction grew at the fastest pace, adding 7,800 jobs, or 10.8 percent, since March 2013.
In March, seasonally adjusted construction employment broke through 80,000 for the first time since January 2009. After plummeting to near 67,000 in 2010, the industry once again returned to near 80,000, which was close to its level during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In March, most of construction's job gains were in building equipment contractors, which added 1,400 and was up 2,600 in the past 12 months. The industry is primarily comprised of contractors specializing in electrical; plumbing; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in March, essentially unchanged from 6.8 percent, as revised, in February and significantly below the year-ago figure of 8.0 percent in March 2013.
Oregon's labor force increased for the fifth consecutive month in March, following nearly two years of monthly declines. Continued job growth, coupled with a high number of entrants to the labor force, has been driving recent labor force growth.