Unemployment rate holds steady in county

Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained 11.6 percent in September, even as the raw figures declined to 10.2 percent with increases in retail and school hiring.

While the seasonally adjusted numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics remained static compared with the previous month, unemployment declined from 13 percent in September 2010.

"It has to do with timing," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "We would expect the raw rate to drop this time of year when there are gains in retail hiring and school is in session. September, October and November are typically our lowest months in raw (unemployment) numbers."

The same elements were at play in Josephine County, where the seasonally adjusted jobless estimates stayed at 12.9 percent — down from 14.2 percent a year ago — while the raw rate was 11.4 percent.

The sampling used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to establish the rates, however, might not hold up once more thorough reports are evaluated.

"I would say in general, job growth appears pretty strong when you are looking at retail," Tauer said. "Education and health services are up 500 jobs from a year ago. Looking at quarterly data through June, some of the estimates might be stronger than reality."

Jackson County added an estimated 2,730 jobs in September and over the past 12 months there has been a 2.9 percent job-growth rate. At the same time, the work force has grown by nearly 2,500.

Even with the Medford Commons project in downtown Medford and the start of the Super Walmart at Miles Field along South Pacific Highway, construction lost 60 jobs, leaving half as many employed in this sector as the housing boom years of 2005 through 2007.

"Certainly the numbers would be worse if those large projects weren't going on," Tauer said. "They are keeping some of the people employed, who might have been dependent on residential construction alone, and we would have seen larger declines."

Retail trade added seasonal jobs in September as the sector grew by 1,170 positions. Educational and health services employment rose by 380 jobs over the month, with 150 of the increase in the health care and social assistance component. Manufacturing declined 110 jobs.

— Greg Stiles

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