The unemployment rate ticked up in both Oregon and Washington last month, though both states experienced solid job growth.
Oregon’s unemployment rate rose from 4.1% in October to 4.4% in November. It’s the fourth month in a row the state’s jobless rate has increased. The state added 8,500 non-farm payroll jobs last month — strong growth that surpassed October’s 5,500 new jobs.
Washington added a healthy 13,000 jobs last month and its unemployment rate rose from 3.8% to 4%. The national unemployment rate remained steady at 3.7%.
State economists on both sides of the Columbia River struck a familiar note of reassurance.
“Despite the uptick in the unemployment rate, unemployment is low by historical standards,” said Paul Turek of Washington’s Employment Security Department in a statement.
“While we’ve seen unemployment rise in recent months, at 4.4%, Oregon’s unemployment rate is still low by historical standards,” said state employment economist Gail Krumenauer at a separate briefing.
People sometimes find it perplexing that a state’s unemployment rate can rise even as it adds jobs. The two statistics are measured differently. The unemployment rate is determined through a household survey and respondents could be gig workers, independent contractors or self-employed. The number of jobs added or lost in a month only applies to payroll positions and is compiled through employer data.
“What we’re seeing is that employment reported by people living in households in Oregon has dropped a bit in recent months,” Krumenauer said. “And a big piece of that drop is self-employment.”
Self-employment had been rising in Oregon in 2020 and 2021, Krumenauer said, reaching about 8% of the labor force several months ago.
“Now we’ve seen that turn down,” she said, noting self-employment has been declining for several months. She suggested that trend could also help explain why Oregon’s unemployment rate rose in November, while the national jobless rate remained unchanged.
Unemployment claims in Oregon have also edged up.
Oregon economists expect a mild recession to hit within the next year, likely driving the state unemployment rate to 5.4%. They anticipate a loss of roughly 24,000 jobs, with losses concentrated in industries tied to construction and manufacturing.
In November, however, Oregon’s private sector added 5,600 jobs and reached a record 1,688,400 positions — continuing to surpass its pre-recession peak from February 2020. The state still has fewer hotel and restaurant-type jobs than it did before the pandemic, though.
Public sector hiring picked up steam in November, adding 2,900 government jobs.
“No broad sector of Oregon’s economy had large job losses in November,” Krumenauer said.
In Washington, Turek said some companies may be taking a “more cautious approach to hiring” but the figures were still good.
“The number of new jobs added in November indicates that we are still in a favorable environment for job seekers,” he said in his statement.
However, the overall size of Washington’s labor force decreased by 4,400 people last month. The Employment Security Department cited child care constraints, aging workforce, retirements and changing work preferences as factors in the decline.