Jackson County posts 11.5 percent unemployment for October

With the Jackson County's population and workforce both growing, job creation hasn't kept pace.

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

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an additional 2,350 Jackson County residents found jobs in the past year, Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, is skeptical the federal agency's estimates will hold up once they are re-crunched at the end of 2011.

Tauer asserts the quarterly numbers — based on payroll tax reports — trailing the monthly estimates led to downward revisions after both the March and June 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."

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. (Correction: The number of counties with double-digit unemployment has been corrected in this story.) However, it is one of 22 counties whose population grew from mid-2010 to mid-2011, according to Portland State University researchers. The BLS pegged Jackson County's labor force at 105,739 last month — 2,617 more than a year earlier.

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

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

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

—Greg Stiles

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