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Oregon's Latest Jobs Reports Reveals Lower Unemployment Rate

OPB | Nov. 19, 2013 1:44 p.m. | Updated: Nov. 19, 2013 3:17 p.m. | Portland

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Oregon’s unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7 percent. This is the lowest it’s been in the five years since the start of the Great Recession.

Oregon’s latest jobs report covers two months, catching up from a federal government shutdown that delayed most economic data.

Joblessness in Oregon fell from 8.2 percent in August to 7.7 percent in October.

Oregon’s Labor Economist David Cooke says construction, hospitality and leisure are growing industries, but government jobs are declining.

We’re seeing residential construction picking up, following a prolonged period of very low activity over the past three calendar years. And then in the government sector it’s just been a long trend of reductions in budgets and that’s been hitting federal government agencies as well as local government agencies especially,” Cooke says.

The latest figures indicate that private-sector hourly wages, on average, have climbed nearly 50 cents in the past year, up from $22.23 to $22.70. The average work week for those employees has gone up, too.

Cooke says although this latest jobs report is stronger than economists expected, he still sees Oregon maintaining its slow recovery.

Another finding is that fewer people in Oregon are looking for work. Cooke says the 61 percent labor force participation rate is the lowest since the department started tracking these rates in 1976.

And according to Cooke, it’s due to a combination of factors.

The participation rate of people ages sixteen to twenty-four, especially those groups of younger people, twenty to thirty years ago had a much higher labor force participation rate than they do currently. Some of those people are more likely to be in school now than they would have been previously,” he says.

Cooke also notes that unemployed people are becoming discouraged about the job hunt.

We have a very high number of people in Oregon and the U.S. who have been unemployed for over a year and the longer a person is unemployed the more likely they are to drop out of the labor force and quit looking for a job,” Cooke says.

The state’s unemployment rate is a half-point higher than the U.S. average.

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