Adroit Construction workers Celso Cortez, left, and Don Moore prepare forms for a concrete pour at Butler Hyundai in August. - Mail Tribune file photo

County's jobless rate falls slightly to 11.5%

Job creation has struggled to keep pace with Jackson County's growing population and work force.

The county's seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained in double digits in October, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 11.5 percent unemployment.

The unemployment rate was a slight improvement over September's 11.6 percent figure. The 95,234 people employed in October represented an increase of 817 jobs over the previous month.

Jackson County is one of 22 counties whose population grew from mid-2010 to mid-2011, according to Portland State University researchers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged Jackson County's labor force at 105,739 last month — 2,617 more than a year earlier. That population increase adds job-seekers to the local market and makes it more difficult to cut into the unemployment rate.

"That signifies new entrants into the labor markets," Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department said. "It could be students who have graduated and are becoming job-seekers, people moving into the area or people coming back into the work force. In the depths of the Great Recession, there were people who gave up searching for jobs. If they start hearing that companies are hiring, they come back and the labor force number goes up."

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated an additional 2,350 Jackson County residents found jobs in the past year, Tauer said he was skeptical the federal agency's estimates will hold up once the quarterly numbers are analyzed at the end of 2011.

Tauer said quarterly numbers — which are based on payroll tax reports — led to downward revisions for both March and June after the figures were scrutinized.

"I wouldn't get too excited about the 2,350 new jobs (in the October report)," Tauer said. "The payroll data comparing June (2010) to June (2011) showed a loss of 470 jobs. I have a feeling the current estimate is going to be revised lower based on complete data."

Tauer said he puts more credence in reported month-to-month changes, movement that can be more easily followed.

During October, manufacturing employment fell by 100 jobs and construction saw 50 fewer jobs. As the primary tourist season came to an end, leisure and hospitality declined by 270 jobs over the month, with 170 of those lost positions in accommodations and food services. Schools, health care and social assistance combined to put more than 1,000 additional people to work, while retailers ramped up for the holidays with 590 more hires.

Jackson County's jobless rate has dropped from 13 percent in October 2010, but it remains packed together with 21 of 36 Oregon counties suffering from double-digit unemployment.

In neighboring Josephine County, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 12.8 percent, down from 14 percent a year earlier. Oregon's lowest jobless rate is in Benton County (6.5 percent), while Crook County had the highest rate (15.8 percent).

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email

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