July employment figures released Monday indicate a year-over-year gain of 1,180 nonfarm jobs, thanks in part to a revision by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bureau re-examined quarterly payroll tax filings in Jackson County, which demonstrated stronger first-quarter employment than previously estimated.
BLS figures disseminated by the Oregon Employment Department showed the jobless rate held steady last month at 8.5 percent, but was 1 percent below the July 2013 9.5 percent mark. Until now, unemployment figures held steadily primarily because of a shrinking labor force. The new report, however, shows job growth in several sectors.
The swing, said Employment Department regional economist Guy Tauer, is readily discernible in the professional and business services sector, which showed a decline of 500-plus jobs year-over-year in its June report. Following input from the payroll tax data, there has been a swing to 150 additional employees from a year ago.
"Things were generally stronger in construction and manufacturing as well," Tauer said. "Health care and social assistance was shown to level off, but now it has increased by 220 jobs."
BLS samples are thin enough to produce a wide margin of error, he said. Going forward, however, the payroll revisions will occur every quarter instead of annually.
"Catching turning points in the economy is the hardest thing in a changing economy," Tauer said. "Revisions can go both ways. Going into the Great Recession, the numbers were revised on the down side."
Tim Duy, University of Oregon economics professor and editor of the Oregon Economic Index, said the revisions reflect what he's seen in recent months, but the Rogue Valley economy is far from robust.
"Some of those numbers showing negative year-over-year growth didn't quite make sense," Duy said. "That's the good news. The bad news is that the region still seems to be growing at a tepid pace. Whereas, Medford has had 1.6 percent employment growth for the past year, Eugene has been at 3.3 percent, and Bend is exploding again with 5.1 percent employment growth."
The difference between Central and Southern Oregon is the kind of people attracted to the region.
"The pre-recession dynamic of in-migration for Bend is returning, and the tourism industry is going strong as well," Duy said.
Bend benefits from mid-career newcomers contributing to the local economy, while Medford still beckons retirees.
"My question is how much of the baby boomers' finances were damaged so that the next wave of retirees doesn't have the same capacity to migrate (to places like Medford) as the previous wave," Duy said. "We're going to start learning about that going forward."
He said the revision shows that Medford's manufacturing sector is still intact.
"From July 2010, basically the low point of the recession, the region has added almost 1,300 jobs from a low of 6,100," Duy said. "As far as regaining past peaks, the Medford area is one of the strongest areas in Oregon."
Leisure and hospitality has also recovered fairly quickly, adding about 1,000 jobs since 2010.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.