County's unemployment rate remains unchanged

Jackson County's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady in January, even as companies shed holiday jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that payroll employment fell by nearly 4,000 jobs in January, leaving the county with a seasonally adjusted 10.4 percent unemployment rate — the same as it was in December.

"January is typically the low point in the Medford employment cycle," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, "What happened was that we saw stronger hiring than expected in December.

In neighboring Josephine County, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11.7 percent, marginally higher than the 11.6 rate in December and the same as January 2012.

As could be expected, the local retail trade employment swooned in January with 2,790 jobs going away, leaving the sector with 150 fewer positions despite the opening of Northgate Centre Marketplace.

"It wasn't just one sector where we saw weakness," Tauer said. "We just didn't see the over-the-year increase we thought we might see based on the showing through the last part of 2012

For example, auto parts and auto dealers saw a decline of 100 positions late in the year.

The potential silver lining, was a year-over-year gain of 560 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2012 when the jobless rate was 11 percent.

Although there are hints residential and commercial construction will pick up in coming months, construction fell by 210 jobs in January and provided 50 fewer people with employment than a year ago. Manufacturing dropped 50 positions in January, but is running 190 jobs ahead of a year ago.

Transportation, warehousing and utilities shed 150 jobs in January. Tauer said couriers and messengers providing intercity and local delivery of parcels were among those whose positions ended after the holidays.

Although there was a short-term decline in professional and business services employment, the sector is 90 jobs ahead of a year earlier. Health care and social assistance lost 80 jobs in January, but still remains stronger than in early 2012 with an additional 370 people at work.

While there are higher-skilled positions that remained unfilled in some pockets of the local economy, workers in less skilled arenas are hunkering down because there are fewer opportunities.

"Typically, we see job movement in a three-to-five year cycle," said Kristi Mishell, an employment consultant of Southern Oregon Staffing in Grants Pass. "We're not seeing that. Part of it is the economy and part of it is companies not being able to pay attractive wages. Employees are going to stay in their current job because there is no guarantee they if they leave their job that in two weeks or a month they can pick up another one."

— Greg Stiles

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