Jackson County's December jobless figure was one of the lowest on record.
The seasonally adjusted 5.3 percent unemployment rate compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reached levels not seen since before the Great Recession.
"We've pretty much bottomed out," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "We dipped down that low for a few months in 2007 and December 2000 before that. We're just really at historical lows."
The reverse effect of low unemployment is upward pressure on wages, Tauer said.
"With no adjustment for inflation, the average wage in Jackson County rose 4.7 percent through the third quarter."
He said the minimum-wage hike was a marginal contributor to that increase, because such jobs account for only 6 to 7 percent of total employment.
"Employers are just having to raise wages to attract and retain workforce," he said.
The civilian labor force was up more than 2,900 jobs from the end of 2015 and more than 4,100 more people were employed than a year earlier. Private sector hiring was up in most areas, with the retail industry up 530 positions and health care up 520 jobs. Professional and business services, along with mining and logging, were off marginally.
"We looked around at other rural counties, and they didn't see as much of seasonal bump in holiday hiring as they might have had 15 or 20 years ago," Tauer said. "Jackson County is a little different, because we're a regional shopping hub. We still have that concentration of retail trade employment with the mail-order houses and big boxes, so we still see the typical run-up before the holidays. But some of the smaller rural counties just aren't seeing that. Between October and December they were just not adding staff for the holiday season. I guess it's the Amazon and eBay effect.
Construction was up, with permits issued for single-family houses expected to be just shy of 900 for 2016. As a result, there were 240 more construction jobs at the end of the year — still off the peak.
"Even though we've had an upturn in building," Tauer said, "we're still below our 20- to 25-year average. We're well down from the boom years and lower than our long-term average."
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31