Unemployment rate holds steady in Jackson County

Jackson County's employment picture changed little in August with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a 9.8 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, the same as in July.

Nonetheless, that's better than the 12 percent rate reported in August 2012.

"August was a bit of a mixed bag," said Guy Tauer, an Oregon Employment Department regional economist. "We might have seen our peak hit in July this year because we didn't see an increase in leisure and hospitality in August. It was probably one of the effects of the smoke (from the area's wildfires). We saw fewer visitors and less need to add additional staff for the month."

To the good side of the ledger were construction and manufacturing, which had slight increases, Tauer said.

"Those sectors are important because the wages tend to pay a little better and offer better benefits," he said. "So it's always good to see over-the-month and over-the-year increases in those categories."

From a year-over-year perspective, health care and social assistance kicked in with 500 additional jobs, retail trade got an early start this year and added 600 positions, while leisure and hospitality was 700 paychecks ahead.

"We're a bit late to the recovery party," Tauer said. "But we're certainly happy to have a seat at the table. For a long time, we were seeing job growth in the Portland area and it was capturing the lion's share for the state. Now we're starting to see those gains in Bend and Medford too."

Construction employment continued its modest seasonal increase, up by 90 jobs over the month. Manufacturing employment continues to be a bright spot in the county's economy, rising by 70 during August. Jackson County's 5.3 percent over-the-year gain in manufacturing employment far exceeds the overall statewide percent change of 1.4 percent, Tauer said.

Retail gained 410 jobs in August, signaling the start of the back-to-school shopping season. The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector grew by 50 jobs in August. Health care and social assistance continued its general upward trajectory with the addition of 90 jobs over the month.

Leisure and hospitality employment was unchanged in August, despite a gain of 50 in the accommodations and food services sector.

In neighboring Josephine County, the jobless rate slipped to 11.2 percent from 11.3 percent in July and below the 12 percent August 2012 mark.

"Even in the smaller counties around us, we're starting to see a little bit of growth," Tauer said. "Over-the-year numbers are up in Josephine, Coos and Curry counties. It's not a lot but, we're happy to see the numbers in the plus side."

— Greg Stiles

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