March jobless rate nudges down in state

PORTLAND — The Oregon unemployment rate declined slightly in March to 10 percent, advancing a recent trend and pushing the rate to the lowest level in more than two years.

The seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rate in Oregon has been stuck between 10 percent and 11 percent for more than a year but has been nudging downward. It fell from 10.2 percent in February to the lowest point since hitting 9.9 percent in January 2009.

The national rate was 8.8 percent for March.

The slight improvement in the overall jobless rate for Oregon was offset by the loss of about 2,500 jobs in March. The state had gained 9,700 jobs in February.

"Oregon job growth took a breather in March after five months of solid gains," state employment economist Nick Beleiciks said Tuesday.

The net loss of jobs statewide in March was blamed partly on the construction industry, which lost 500 jobs when it normally gains about 700 jobs during the traditional start of the homebuilding season. Beleiciks said it may have been due to unusually wet weather in March after some job growth for the sector in the past few months.

Despite the net loss of jobs statewide, Beleiciks noted the overall unemployment rate improved because they are the result of two different measurements: the total number of nonfarm payroll jobs is based on an employer survey, while the unemployment rate is based on a household survey.

"These can move at slightly different rates over time," Beleiciks said, but "in the long term they tend to mirror each other."

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